Health Conditions Behind Sleep Apnea

Health Conditions Behind Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea causes frequent but brief interruptions in breathing during sleep. It affects 50-70 million American adults. While sleep apnea affects adults of all ages and even children, it’s more common in older, overweight adults. 

Because it occurs during sleep, many people with sleep apnea are unaware of it, so the condition goes undiagnosed. 

If you snore or have reason to suspect you may have sleep apnea, you can trust our ENT physicians at Southern ENT in south Louisiana. We routinely screen for, diagnose, and treat sleep apnea.

Even though breathing disruptions are brief in sleep apnea, they can have a major impact on your health, causing exhaustion, daytime sleepiness and a host of chronic health issues related to reduced oxygen and poor sleep quality. 

Don’t wait to discuss your concerns with one of our ENT experts.

What happens in sleep apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type of sleep apnea. It occurs when the soft tissues in the back of your throat relax too much during sleep, blocking the upper airway.

When your brain detects a lack of oxygen, it jolts your body awake to remind you to breathe. With a snort, gasping, or choking sound, a person suffering from obstructive sleep apnea resumes normal breathing.

Central sleep apnea is a less common type of sleep apnea that occurs when your brain does not properly deliver signals to the muscles that control breathing.

Snoring is a common symptom of obstructive sleep apnea, but not everyone who snores has sleep apnea. 

Risk factors for sleep apnea

You have a greater risk for sleep apnea if you have any of these conditions: 

Excess weight

Carrying extra weight is the primary risk factor for obstructive sleep apnea. 

Fat deposits in your neck and around your tongue and palate make the airway much narrower and smaller, paving the way for sleep apnea. Even so, obstructive sleep apnea can also affect thin people, and not everyone who is overweight has the disorder. 

Large adenoids

Some people have large tonsils or adenoids, as well as smaller airways, which can cause breathing difficulty while sleeping. In children, larger-than-normal adenoids and tonsils are the most common cause of sleep apnea. 

Jaw misalignment

Certain conditions or genetic factors can create an imbalance in facial structure, causing the tongue to sit farther back in the mouth.

A lower jaw that is shorter than the upper jaw can cause sleep apnea, as can a palate (the roof of the mouth) that is shaped a certain way and collapses more easily during sleep.

Diabetes

People with Type 2 diabetes are significantly more likely than those without diabetes to be diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea. Insulin resistance in diabetes may increase the risk of apnea on its own, just as inflammation from apnea may increase the risk of diabetes. 

Chronic nasal congestion

Because of the restricted airways, people who experience continuous nasal congestion at night are more prone to develop obstructive sleep apnea. 

Asthma

Asthma is linked to sleep apnea. If you have asthma, you’re more prone to develop sleep apnea. And symptoms of one disorder might exacerbate symptoms of the other. Sleep apnea can make asthma worse, and asthma can make sleep apnea worse.

Heart failure

People with heart failure can have both obstructive and central sleep apnea. Heart failure can cause sodium and water retention, which may trigger sleep apnea. 

And heart failure is linked to issues with the respiratory control system, which could be a contributing factor in central sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea diagnosis and treatment

Schedule a visit with one of our providers at Southern ENT to discuss diagnosis and treatment of sleep apnea. A sleep study is a comprehensive test that records body activity while you sleep. This test can tell us if you have sleep apnea and how severe it is. 

To get started, call our nearest office to schedule a visit. Our clinics are located in Thibodaux, Houma, Raceland, Morgan City, New Iberia, and Youngsville, Louisiana.

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