Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a disorder characterized by obstructive breathing during sleep. It can make you sleepy during the day and impact your quality of life. Obstructive sleep apnea is becoming more and more common in Hong Kong. The estimated prevalence of OSA in North America is 15-30% for males and 10-15% for females (for adults between the age of 30 to 70). However, a lot of people often go undiagnosed. Read on to learn more about the symptoms, causes, and treatment of obstructive sleep apnea.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs when there is reduced airflow into the lungs during sleep due to narrowing or obstruction to the upper airway. Normally, as we sleep, air can flow freely into our lungs. However, vibration, narrowing and obstruction can occur in the nose, nasopharynx (back of the nose), soft palate, oropharynx (back of the mouth), and throat leading to snoring and OSA. (Often it is a combination of multiple upper airway sites which causes OSA.) When the flow of air and breathing is reduced or stopped for a short time, there may be some mild to moderate hypoxia (lack of oxygen). The brain will sense this and make your heart beat faster and breathe faster. After a short time, some head movement occurs and the upper airway reopens, then breathing starts again with a gasp, grunt or choking. The oxygen level in the blood returns to normal and snoring returns. However, this pattern can repeat itself (which can happen up to hundreds of times a night) in people with obstructive sleep apnea.
Obstructive sleep apnea can be further characterized into two types of breathing interruption. If the upper airway narrows and causes a partial blockage of the airway lasting for 10 seconds or more, it is called hypopnoea. If there is a total blockage of the upper airway lasting for 10 seconds or more, it is referred to as apnoea (no breathing).
Obstructive sleep apnea is a common type of sleep apnea. There are three different types of sleep apnea, namely:
Obstructive sleep apnea is difficult to spot as the symptoms are usually first noticed by the patient's partner, friend, or family members, and not by the patient themselves.
Common symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea mainly happen while asleep, including:
These repeated sleep interruptions can hugely impact your sleep quality. Symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea when awake may include:
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) happens when there is a blockage or obstruction to the upper airway, which stops you from breathing properly while sleeping.
Obstructive sleep apnea has been found to link with:
If you are suspected to have Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), you can simply try the Epworth Sleepiness Score questionnaire. For a proper diagnosis of OSA, patients can visit a sleep apnoea specialist for a clinical assessment with the aid of investigations observing their sleep at home or in the hospital.
There are different kinds of assessments used to diagnose obstructive sleep apnea, for example:
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) may need ongoing treatment to control the symptoms. The treatment focuses on reducing the number of breathing pauses while asleep.
Some lifestyle changes can be made to manage the symptoms of OSA, such as:
Other therapeutic obstructive sleep apnea management includes:
If left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea can hugely impact the quality of life and potentially lead to:
In obstructive sleep apnea, there is narrowing or obstruction to the upper airway, leading to decrease airflow into the lungs. There is snoring and then often a period of no breathing. Then suddenly some gasping, grunting or choking leads to restarting of breathing/snoring.
There are many therapeutic options to manage obstructive sleep apnea such as surgery, Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) and oral appliance. In some instances, surgery can even cure obstructive sleep apnea. Lifestyle modifications such as losing weight are important to lessen the obstruction.
Obstructive sleep apnea is associated with many risk factors, and large neck size is one of them. Other risk factors include being overweight or obese, middle-aged male, having large tonsils, a small lower jaw, and other medical conditions such as Hypothyroidism, type 2 diabetes, and Down’s syndrome.
This article was independently written by Healthy Matters and is not sponsored. It is informative only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be relied upon for specific medical advice.
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