Sleep Apnea and Your Health – What’s the Connection?
If you are one of the 18 million Americans who have sleep apnea, you know what a nuisance nighttime snoring can be for your partner. What you might not know is that this seemingly benign condition could actually be the tip of the iceberg to a much larger problem lurking beneath the surface. In fact, there are many hidden dangers associated with sleep apnea – some of which can cause serious health complications.
Low Blood Oxygen Levels
Apnea causes blood oxygen levels to fall – a condition known as hypoxemia. When this occurs, it puts strain on the cardiovascular system and can raise blood pressure, resulting in hypertension. Obstructive sleep apnea is a well-known risk factor for high blood pressure, with approximately 50 percent of people with apnea eventually developing hypertension.
Unfortunately, the body can begin experiencing harmful cardiovascular health effects much quicker than one might think. A 2012 study of obstructive sleep apnea indicated that it only takes one month of moderate apnea to negatively affect cerebrovascular function. In that amount of time, it is possible that a person could suffer damage to the walls of the blood vessels in the brain, increasing the risk of stroke. Long term, recurrent episodes of hypoxemia can lead to irregular heart beat and sudden death.
Associated Health Conditions
In addition to causing cardiovascular problems, sleep apnea has been associated with a wide range of other health conditions. According to the Mayo Clinic, people who have obstructive sleep apnea are at an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes due to increased insulin resistance. Likewise, treatment of sleep apnea can lead to improvements in blood sugar levels.
Examples of other medical conditions linked to sleep apnea include metabolic syndrome, abnormal liver function, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. It is also far more likely that a person with sleep apnea will experience daytime drowsiness and fatigue due to a lack of quality, restful sleep. This can lead to irritability, depression, and even an increased risk of being involved in an auto or workplace accident.
Getting Help for Sleep Apnea
Since letting your sleep apnea go untreated could have harmful effects on your body, it’s important to see a Los Angeles sleep apnea expert for diagnosis and treatment for the condition as soon as possible. Your evaluation will include a physical exam, review of your medical history, and an assessment of your physical symptoms, such as:
- Frequent nighttime snoring
- Waking up with a dry mouth or throat
- Having been awakened by shortness of breath
- Having been told that you temporarily stop breathing while sleeping
- Experiencing chronic daytime fatigue and drowsiness
Treatments are available to help manage this condition and relieve the throat constriction that is responsible for obstructive apnea. Lifestyle changes like losing excess weight and trying new sleeping positions are effective ways of opening the airways at night. You may also be fitted for an oral appliance that will help keep the airways clear of obstructive tissues.
For more information about sleep apnea, contact us today to schedule your appointment with our Los Angeles dentist.
Disclaimer: Obviously, every patient’s case is different, and needs to be properly diagnosed and treated by a healthcare professional. Please see your healthcare professional or contact us for an appointment.