The Dangers of Untreated Sleep Apnea

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The Dangers of Untreated Sleep Apnea

About 30 million Americans suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a sleep disorder that causes you to stop breathing many times a night. Often, these interruptions are so brief, you may have OSA and not even know it.

If OSA doesn’t interrupt your sleep, what’s the big deal? As it turns out, all those tiny interruptions come with some really big health risks. 

At Tomase Dental CareTimothy Tomase, DDS, offers state-of-the-art treatments for obstructive sleep apnea, helping patients in Toledo, Ohio, reduce its risks (and improve their sleep, too). Here’s what you should know about OSA and why untreated OSA is so serious.

OSA: Causes and symptoms

OSA happens when the soft tissues at the back of your throat relax and descend into your airway while you’re sleeping, temporarily interfering with the way you breathe. Interruptions can be very brief — no more than a few seconds — or much longer.

Anyone can develop OSA, but it’s more common among people with specific risk factors, like:

  • Being older
  • Being male 
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Smoking 
  • Consuming excessive alcohol 
  • Having a large neck 
  • Having certain chronic diseases, like diabetes or hypertension

OSA is also more common among people who have a close relative with the condition.

OSA symptoms

Many people who have OSA snore, and it’s easy to think that if you don’t snore, then you don’t have OSA. But that’s not true: You can have OSA without snoring. What’s more, if you snore, it doesn’t automatically mean you have OSA. Allergies and other issues can also cause snoring.

Other OSA symptoms to watch out for include:

  • Waking up gasping for breath
  • Snorting during your sleep
  • Morning headaches
  • Waking up with a sore throat
  • Daytime drowsiness
  • Irritability
  • Having problems concentrating
  • General fatigue

Even if OSA doesn’t wake you, you can still have some or all of these symptoms.

Why prompt treatment is critical

If OSA “only” caused snoring, it’d be annoying — to you and your sleep partner. But OSA increases your risks of serious medical problems, which is why you should never delay treatment.

All those tiny breathing interruptions significantly increase your risks of:

  • Heart attack and heart disease
  • Stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Depression
  • Problems with memory

Because OSA causes daytime drowsiness, it can also increase your risk of having serious accidents.

Treating OSA

Fortunately, several treatments for OSA are available. Some people benefit from CPAP, or continuous positive airway pressure, a device that delivers a steady stream of air to help keep your airway from collapsing. 

For some people, though, CPAP is ineffective or uncomfortable. Dr. Tomase can fit you with a special device that shifts your jaw slightly forward, keeping your airway open while you sleep. Other devices help prevent your tongue from blocking your airway.

OSA treatment for your health

If you think you have OSA or if you have symptoms associated with OSA, scheduling an evaluation is the best way to make sure you get the treatment you need to reduce your health risks. To learn more about OSA treatment or to schedule an evaluation, call 419-670-6537 or book an appointment online at Tomase Dental Care today.