What Can Happen if Sleep Apnea Goes Untreated

It’s been a while since snoring was merely considered the funny sounds Grandpa made when he napped. We now know that snoring may be an indicator of a serious sleep disorder called obstructive sleep apnea. All snoring stems from tissue vibrating in the throat, and in some cases, this tissue can collapse completely enough that your breathing stops during sleep.

While your brain sends signals to wake you enough to start breathing again, you may not be aware of these sleep interruptions. You may feel tired during the day because of them, but this is just the beginning of the effects that sleep apnea can create if it’s left untreated. It can become a risk factor or source contributor to a range of serious health complications over time.

The causes of sleep apnea

Muscles that support the soft palate tissue at the back of your mouth relax while you’re asleep. This leads to the collapse of these tissues, and the base of your tongue falls back as well. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when these tissue collapses block the airway through your throat. The sound of snoring is due to vibrations of these tissues as air struggles to get through.

Risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea include:

There’s a second, less common type of breathing issue called central sleep apnea. This happens when your brain’s messages directing regular breathing fail.

Health complications of sleep apnea

The longer you live with untreated sleep apnea, the more serious the potential complications become.

Daytime fatigue

Daytime fatigue is perhaps the most common short-term symptom, noticeable through difficulties concentrating and falling asleep through the day. Your mood may also suffer, with irritability and depression being common.

Affects others, too

Your sleep apnea could have effects on those around you, also, spreading daytime fatigue to a spouse, for example, whose sleep suffers from your disruptions and snoring.

High blood pressure

High blood pressure compensates for lower levels of oxygen in your blood, forcing the heart to work harder to deliver enough oxygen. High blood pressure, or hypertension, has a range of health issues itself, so the aggravation from sleep apnea is an unwelcome complication.

Heart health

Heart attack risk climbs for sleep apnea patients, since low blood oxygen can aggravate irregular heartbeats. Heart disease and strokes are connected to sleep apnea as well as hypertension.

Type 2 diabetes

The risk for Type 2 diabetes climbs since sleep apnea can affect insulin resistance, a primary factor in climbing blood sugar levels. In turn, diabetes can contribute to heart and blood vessel issues.

Surgical and medication complications

Surgical procedures and use of some medications can be complicated by sleep apnea. General anesthesia can be affected by the collapse of soft tissue in the throat, and medications with sedative effects can cause further sleep difficulties.

Diagnosis and treatment for sleep apnea starts with a visit to Southern ENT. Our professionals can assess your condition and recommend your next steps to get you over the sleep apnea hurdle.



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