Symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) affected more than 25 million Americans in 2014, creating a public health crisis with billions of dollars in direct economic costs, such as high blood pressure and automobile accidents, and indirect costs, such as decreased productivity at work and reduced quality of life.
And yet, only a fraction of the people who could benefit from sleep apnea treatment are getting it. The condition can be difficult to diagnose, and people may not be aware of how much the interruptions to their nightly sleep are harming their health.
Risk Factors in Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Gender, age, and body mass are all factors in how susceptible you are to obstructive sleep apnea. Men are twice as likely as women to have it, and your risk also increases as you reach middle age.
Part of the reason for the increasing number of obstructive sleep apnea cases has to do with the obesity epidemic in the U.S. People who are overweight are four times as likely to suffer from the condition.
Signs of Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Primary-care providers who are unaware of the increase in OSA may not consider it during a wellness exam, and no blood test can detect the condition.
Most people know that snoring is one sign of obstructive sleep apnea, but snoring has many causes. The type of snoring that suggests obstructive sleep apnea is loud and persistent. This type of snoring occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat relax, causing the airway to narrow, or even close up. That’s what turns occasional snoring into a condition that causes you to wake up snorting or choking as much as 30 times an hour.
Lesser-known symptoms that occur during the night include night sweats — brought on by the lack of breath forcing your body to instinctively panic — and frequent urination. This latter condition, called nocturia, affects nearly two-thirds of adults between the ages of 55 and 84, although not every case is due to obstructive sleep apnea.
For men, erectile dysfunction might be a symptom. A 2009 study in Germany found almost 70 percent of obstructive sleep apnea patients also suffered from ED. Fatigue from lack of rest is a factor, but researchers also think the condition impedes your body’s ability to produce testosterone.
Symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea persist into the morning. These include waking up with a headache, sore throat or dry mouth. Then they continue throughout the day with excessive drowsiness and irritability, as well as difficulty concentrating and paying attention to daily tasks. Of course, you might find yourself dozing off, too!
If you’re a snorer and begin noticing any of the symptoms related to obstructive sleep apnea, make sure you mention them to your primary care provider at your next wellness visit. And don’t hesitate to make an appointment if the symptoms are starting to affect you during waking hours. It’s important for you to know whether your snoring is something that can be corrected with a few changes of habit or something that requires sleep apnea treatment.
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