In part one of this series on sleep apnea, we explored the very basics of what it is and how it is caused. In today’s post, we’re going to continue the conversation and take a look into the risk factors, how it’s diagnosed, and the treatments that are available.

Living with sleep apnea is exhausting both physically and emotionally, and waking the next day you already feel completely spent. At Alaska Center for Oral + Facial Surgery (AOFS), we want to help give you your quality of life back. Wake up refreshed and ready to take on the day! Join us in the conclusion of our sleep apnea series, and learn about the options we offer!

Are there risk factors to obstructive sleep apnea?

It is known that sleep apnea can affect anyone of any age and there are risk factors associated with it including:

  • Age – It often affects older adults.
  • Sex – Men are more likely to develop the disorder, often two to three times more than women. Women increase their risk with being overweight and it also increases after menopause.
  • Being overweight – Carrying excess weight significantly affects your risk, as the fat around your neck plays a role in breathing obstruction during sleep.
  • Neck size – People with thicker and broader necks are more susceptible to narrowing air pathways.
  • Small airways – Some people just naturally have smaller airways in their necks, and tonsils and adenoids can further block this airway.
  • Genetics – If you have other family members with the disorder, this puts you at an increased risk.
  • Substance use – If you consume alcohol, sedatives, or tranquilizers, these things relax the throat subjecting you to obstructive sleep apnea.
  • Smoking – Because smoking affects inflammation and fluid retention in the upper respiratory system, it makes smokers three times more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea.
  • Nasal concerns – Whether you have a small nasal cavity or allergies, this may play a role in the development of sleep apnea.

What are the complications of untreated sleep apnea?

If sleep apnea goes untreated it can cause major medical complications including:

High blood pressure and heart issues – Because there are rapid drops in blood oxygen levels when you sleep, as a result, your blood pressure will increase and cause strain on your cardiovascular system. You are also at risk for recurrent strokes, heart attacks, and an abnormal heartbeat, not to mention death from episodes of low blood oxygen and an irregular heartbeat.

  • Type 2 diabetes – Your insulin resistance increases with sleep apnea, subjecting you to type 2 diabetes.
  • Liver concerns – Sleep apnea can increase scarring and abnormal results on liver function tests, and contributes to non-alcoholic related fatty liver disease.
  • Medication and surgery complications – Certain medications can make sleep apnea worse, along with surgery which causes complications as a result of being sedated and on your back.

How is sleep apnea diagnosed?

Your general practitioner may be able to recognize the symptoms and refer you to a sleep specialist. From here, the sleep specialist will keep you overnight and monitor your breathing and other functions as you sleep.

Common tests include:

Nocturnal polysomnography – In this test you’re hooked up to machines that monitor your lungs, heart, brain, breathing patterns, body movements, and blood oxygen levels.

Home sleep test – You may be able to acquire a device from your doctor that is able to measure blood oxygen levels, heart rate, airflow, and breathing patterns.  

Obstructive sleep apnea treatments

Some common sleep apnea treatments include:

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) – A CPAP is a device that provides increased air pressure, enough to keep your airways open while you sleep.

Oral splints and accessories – When a CPAP isn’t an option, oral accessories can help keep the airways open. Some will bring your jaw forward opening the airway and treating mild sleep apnea.

What treatments are used at AOFS?

If there is no relief from a CPAP or oral appliances, surgery may be warranted, and that is what we do at AOFS. Typical oral surgeries include:

  • Tissue shrinkage
  • Tissue removal
  • Jaw alterations
  • Oral implants
  • Creating a new air pathway

Dr. Nordstrom also uses an innovative technique to address obstructive sleep apnea in specific cases, that is so new most haven’t even heard of the technology!

Sleep apnea is a serious condition that can affect every part of your life. If you think you are suffering from obstructive sleep apnea, work with a medical professional and get tested, then call us for a solution!

For more information on the sleep apnea options available at AOFS, call our office today!