WHAT IS OBSTRUCTIVE SLEEP APNEA (OSA)?
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is one of the most common sleep-disordered breathing problems.
- OSA affects 1 out of every 25 middle-aged men compared to 1 out of 50 middle-aged women.
- OSA becomes more common as we age, affecting at least 1 out of every 10 people over the age of 65.
The term “Obstructive Sleep Apnea” is derived from the Greek word “apnea,” which means “want of breath.” In brief, OSA is a repeated narrowing of your throat during sleep that partially or completely blocks your airway. This can cause you to stop breathing for 10 to 20 seconds, or longer, despite continued chest and abdominal effort. And these breathing pauses (referred to as “apneic events”) can occur as many as 20 to 60 times per hour, depriving your brain and vital organs of the oxygen they need.
Obtaining a differential diagnosis, so that we can effectively treat the cause of your disorder, is essential. As noted, OSA results from a physical blockage of your airway that is often caused by the collapse of the soft tissue in the back of your throat. While OSA is the most common type of sleep apnea, there are also two other categories. “Central Sleep Apnea” (CSA), which is less common, is a condition in which breathing stops because the muscles involved do not receive the proper signal from the brain. Finally, “Mixed Apnea” is a combination of obstructive and central sleep apnea.
OBSTRUCTIVE SLEEP APNEA
|SEVERITY||AIRFLOW DROPS PER HOUR OF SLEEP|
|Mild OSA||5 to 15|
|Moderate OSA||15 to 30|
|Severe OSA||30 or more|
Diagnosis and evaluation of the severity of OSA is determined by completing an
overnight sleep study, and this information is used to help determine your treatment options.
Despite all of the attention being focused on sleep, current estimates suggest that as many as 80% of Americans who suffer from OSA are not diagnosed. If left untreated, OSA can cause high-blood pressure and other heart diseases, depression, irritability, learning and memory difficulties, weight gain, impotence and headaches, plus workplace injuries and traffic accidents.
Co-existing conditions are also of concern. For example, sleep-disorders such as OSA often coexist with TMJ disorders. It has also been proven that people suffering from OSA and diabetes are more resistant to insulin treatment if their sleep disorder remains untreated. These are just a few reasons why airway-related sleep disorders, such as OSA, must be taken seriously by patients and their doctors.
We regularly screen patients for sleep-disordered breathing problems such as Obstructive Sleep Apnea in our office. If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, we can provide treatment options including oral appliance therapy. This therapy is proven-effective and recommended by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) for patients with mild-to-moderate OSA as well as patients who are CPAP intolerant.