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Viktoriya Dombrovska Explains the Risks Associated With Untreated Sleep Apnea and the Various Treatment Options

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is characterized by recurrent interruptions in breathing during sleep, caused by an obstruction in the upper airway. Typically, this obstruction arises from the collapse of soft tissues at the back of the throat, leading to restricted or obstructed airflow. Consequently, the body may briefly awaken numerous times during the night to restore normal breathing, resulting in disrupted sleep patterns.

According to article in, the main types of sleep apnea are:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which is the more common form that occurs when throat muscles relax and block the flow of air into the lungs
  • Central sleep apnea (CSA), which occurs when the brain doesn’t send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing
  • Treatment-emergent central sleep apnea, also known as complex sleep apnea, which happens when someone has OSA — diagnosed with a sleep study — that converts to CSA when receiving therapy for OSA

There are several factors that can contribute to the development of sleep apnea, including:

  • Obesity: People who are overweight or obese are at a higher risk of developing sleep apnea because the excess fat in their neck and throat can put pressure on the airway and make it more likely to collapse during sleep.
  • Age: As people age, the muscles in their throat may become weaker, making it easier for the airway to collapse.
  • Genetics: Sleep apnea can run in families, suggesting a genetic component to the disorder.
  • Alcohol and sedative use: These substances can relax the muscles in the throat and make it more likely for the airway to collapse during sleep.
  • Smoking: Smoking can irritate and inflame the throat, leading to swelling and narrowing of the airway. 

Untreated sleep apnea can have serious consequences for both physical and mental health. 

Some of the common complications associated with sleep apnea include:

  • High blood pressure: Sleep apnea can cause a rise in blood pressure, which can increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular problems.
  • Heart disease: People with sleep apnea are at a higher risk of developing heart disease, including arrhythmias, heart failure, and coronary artery disease.
  • Type 2 diabetes: Sleep apnea can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by disrupting glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity.
  • Depression and anxiety: Sleep apnea can lead to daytime fatigue and irritability, which can contribute to the development of depression and anxiety.
  • Cognitive impairment: Sleep apnea has been linked to impaired memory and concentration, as well as a higher risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Accidents and injuries: People with sleep apnea are at a higher risk of accidents and injuries, including motor vehicle accidents and workplace accidents.
  • Sleep deprivation: Sleep apnea can lead to poor quality sleep and chronic sleep deprivation, which can impair immune function, increase inflammation, and contribute to a range of health problems.

Timely medical attention is crucial if you suspect you or a loved one may have sleep apnea, as early diagnosis and treatment play a vital role in preventing complications. The most common diagnostic method is a sleep study, also called a polysomnogram, which is typically conducted in a sleep laboratory, although home sleep studies are also available.

Home sleep tests (HST) serve as an alternative to in-laboratory sleep studies for diagnosing sleep apnea. These tests offer convenience and cost-effectiveness as they can be performed in the comfort of one’s own home and are generally more affordable than in-lab studies.

CPAP therapy is an effective treatment for sleep apnea, effectively reducing symptoms like daytime fatigue, snoring, and interruptions in breathing during sleep. It involves the use of a CPAP machine, which delivers a continuous flow of air pressure through a mask placed over the nose and/or mouth. This gentle stream of air keeps the airway open, preventing blockages and halting apnea events. The machine is equipped with adjustable settings, allowing healthcare professionals to customize the pressure levels and incorporate comfort features like ramp-up time and humidification to enhance the overall treatment experience.

There are several different types of CPAP machines, each with unique features and capabilities. Here are some of the most common types:

  • Standard CPAP machine: This is the most basic type of CPAP machine, which delivers a fixed amount of air pressure continuously throughout the night. It is typically the most affordable type of CPAP machine.
  • Auto-Adjusting CPAP (APAP) machine: This type of machine uses sensors to adjust the air pressure based on the person’s breathing patterns throughout the night. It can provide a more comfortable and personalized therapy than a standard CPAP machine.
  • Bi-level positive airway pressure (BiPAP) machine: This type of machine delivers two different levels of air pressure, one for inhalation and one for exhalation. This can be helpful for people who have trouble exhaling against a fixed pressure.
  • Travel CPAP machine: These machines are designed to be portable and lightweight, making them convenient for travel. They often have smaller profiles and may include battery options for extended use.
  • CPAP machine with humidifier: Some CPAP machines come with a built-in humidifier, which adds moisture to the air to prevent dryness in the mouth and throat.
  • CPAP machine with heated tubing: This type of machine has a heated tube that helps to prevent condensation from forming in the tubing, which can be uncomfortable and cause noise.

It is important to consult with a healthcare professional to determine which type of CPAP machine is most appropriate for an individual’s specific needs and medical condition.

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