(Updated at Sep 25 / 2023)
Obstructive sleep apnea dangers and treatment options
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is one of the most frequent causes of daytime sleepiness although it is rarely diagnosed and many people have no idea that they have it.
OSA is a disorder in which breathing during sleep is periodically interrupted for more than ten seconds. It occurs due to the obstruction of the airways by the persons own tissues due to anatomical peculiarities or excess weight. A person who has it cannot identify when it happens. When this breathless episode occurs, in most cases, a person only goes from deep sleep into shallow sleep which releases the obstruction as the tone of the mouth and pharynx’s muscles increases. These episodes can be noted by other people, on the other hand. Usually, the ending of apnea happens when a sleeping person makes a deep breath and releases a loud snore. If you notice this in your partner, make sure he or she goes to a doctor and gets diagnosed for OSA, especially if they are suffering from excessive daytime sleepiness.
What are the dangers of OSA?
First of all, the episodes when a person doesn’t breath during the night (apneas) are frequent, there can be multiple per one night. In severe cases, apneas can make up to 60% of the whole night sleep. Naturally, during the day such person is excessively sleepy and cannot lead a normal life. Moreover, it can even lead to severe injuries or accidents in work with heavy machinery or driving to work as sleepiness also causes absence of mind, inattentiveness, and so on.
Secondly, in multiple apneas the insufficient oxygen is entering the lungs, which leads to the lowered blood oxygenation. This can result in multiple health problems including hypertension, heart diseases, and so on.
When can you suspect that you have OSA?
You can suspect that you suffer from this condition if you suffer from excessive daytime sleepiness on a daily basis even if you seemingly sleep enough, i.e. for 7-8 hours per night. Besides, there are several risk factors and diseases that can make you suspect OSA:
- Excessive weight;
- Old age;
- Brain injury;
- Frequent consumption of alcohol;
- Use of sedatives, sleeping pills, muscle relaxers or other medicines that can cause muscle relaxation.
- Shortness of breath;
- Mood swings;
How is OSA diagnosed?
In order to get the right diagnosis, go to your doctor and tell him about the symptoms and risk factors that you have. The preliminary diagnosis can be made based on a patient’s complaints, body mass index (if it is indicated that a patient is overweight), and venous blood analysis. If the blood test shows elevated level of bicarbonate, then arterial blood gas composition test is appointed. It is made to identify the severity of hypoxia, i.e. the damage done to the lungs due to insufficient oxygen inflow as a result of multiple apneas. To clarify the diagnosis, a doctor can also appoint X-ray or CT scan for the lungs to see whether there is another reason for increased carbon dioxide and low oxygen. Then, if there are no other reasons, sleep tests are made such as Polysomnography and multiple sleep latency test.
How can you treat OSA?
First of all, for an effective therapy, a person should consider getting of risk factors such as excess weight, medicines that can cause pharynx muscles relaxation, cease alcohol or lower its consumption, and so on.
Then, if the condition is moderate to severe, positive pressure device use is appointed. This is the device that is used during sleep to ensure that there is constant air supply to the lungs even if no factors that cause apneas are eliminated. In severe cases, a surgery to help with an obstruction, if there is a way to eliminate the anatomical changes or inborn abnormalities, is made.
On top of the medical procedures for the elimination of obstruction causes, accompanying conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, and so on are treated.
Since 90% of people with the disorder suffer from excessive weight and obesity, the major recommendation for the condition treatment is weight loss.
How to cope with sleepiness in OSA?
Sleepiness related to obstructive sleep apnea has an additional danger to the possible health conditions that can develop as it can be a cause of a traffic accident or result in injury or even death on a workplace (for instance, for people working with heavy machinery). Thus, wakefulness-promotion medicines should be used. Even the FDA approved medications initially designed for narcolepsy, a neurological disorder with sleepiness attacks, for OSA.
The safest medications for wakefulness promotion available today are Modafinil-based. It can be Modafinil or Armodafinil (generic Waklert), a slightly changed formula for Modafinil. These drugs are designed for long-term use, they do not cause any harm to the body and enhance wakefulness evenly throughout the day without spikes of energy and its sharp drop. Other medicines that can be used are amphetamines, such as popular among young people Adderall, and caffeine pills. However, these drugs are cheaper but they are much more likely to cause side effects than Modafinil. Comparison of wakefulness-promoting medicines for OSA
- Sexual dysfunctions;
- Panic attacks,
- Raised body temperature;
- High blood pressure, and others.
- Muscle cramps;
- Raise of the blood tension;
- Heart disease symptoms;
- Nausea and vomiting;
- Stomach irritation;
- Worsening of kidney function;
- Allergy, and others.
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