Why Sleep Apnea Goes Undiagnosed

According to the American Sleep Association, 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, a disorder that causes short and frequent pauses in breathing while sleeping, with serious health consequences, yet 80% of those with a moderate or severe case have never been diagnosed. Most are middle-aged.

There are many reasons for this lack of proper diagnosis, including the fact that symptoms can match other problems. But if you are aware that you snore heavily (because a partner has complained) or are often very, very tired during the day, even though you slept enough hours, these are the most common signs and you should seek a diagnosis. 

Symptoms Commonly Associated with Sleep Apnea

It is important to consider some of the other common symptoms, though everyone has their own unique set of manifestations:

  • 60-90% of those who suffer from apneas are obese, according to various studies.
  • You wake in the morning with a migraine headache.
  • When you wake, you have a sore throat, a choking sensation, or the feeling there is “cotton” in the mouth (all because of breathing through the mouth all night).
  • You have difficulty staying awake while driving to work and not falling asleep in meetings or at your desk.
  • You find it hard to concentrate and remember things.
  • You have reduced reaction time, which could range from responding to someone with whom you are having a conversation to avoiding a car that pulls in front of you unexpectedly.
  • You suffer from depression, anxiety, or irritability not explained by life’s circumstances.

Few medical doctors are experts on sleep apnea and able to diagnose it precisely, given its overlapping symptoms with depression and other reasons for daytime fatigue. Many may also feel they need to focus on other disorders that are more common and seemingly more serious. 

How Sleep Apnea Affects Different Individuals

Women may also not seem to qualify based on data that applies to men, such as definitions of obesity, the number of pauses in breathing during sleep, and what constitutes heavy snoring. On the other hand, females who have been diagnosed as having sleep apnea are more likely than men to have such accompanying issues as restless leg syndrome, nightmares, and heart palpitations, according to Sleep Advisor. 

As for how serious it can be, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 10,000 vehicle accidents and 1,500 deaths a year are due to sleep deprivation from all causes. It also increases the risk of heart failure by 140% and coronary heart disease 30%, according to Sleep Advisor. 

Wilshire Smile Studio has quite a bit of experience with Obstructive Sleep Apnea OSA), by far the most common type, since our specialty is oral health and it is easy for a dentist to see whether a tongue or excessive tissue around the throat could be blocking the airway when someone lies on her or his back. If this is the primary problem, we can create a customized FDA-approved dental appliance that will keep the jaw in a position to prevent apneas form occurring.  

Call today to set an appointment for a full dental examination, including a discussion about whether your symptoms make it likely that you are suffering from OSA.

Call now (323) 765-0292
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