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Snoring: Just Annoying or a Sign of Dangerous Sleep Apnea?

Snoring: Just Annoying or a Sign of Dangerous Sleep Apnea?

(ARA)- Yes, it's loud and disruptive. But did you know that heavy snoring can actually be a sign of a dangerous health problem called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)? This condition is more common than most people realize; studies indicate that as many as one in four Americans may suffer from it.
According to the American Medical Association (AMA), obstructive sleep apnea is caused by a momentary blockage or obstruction in the throat or upper airway. The AMA notes that people with OSA may experience "episodes when breathing stops during sleep (that) can last more than 10 seconds and may occur as many as 60 times per hour."
Obstructive sleep apnea is more common in men than women, and several factors--including obesity, age, smoking, alcohol use and lung disease--increase the risk of developing or making the condition worse. A person with sleep apnea may suffer from headaches, debilitating sleepiness, diminished mental ability, congestive heart failure, and pulmonary insufficiency.
Sleep is supposed to be a restful and restorative state, but recent research published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that for people with obstructive sleep apnea, it can be deadly. According to the study, "people with obstructive sleep apnea have a peak in sudden death from cardiac causes during the sleeping hours."
People with obstructive sleep apnea are also at risk during the day. OSA sufferers can be so sleep deprived that they fall asleep while standing up, while talking, or while driving a car. "Most people know how dangerous it can be to drive when they are exhausted. But many of the most critically impaired patients with sleep apnea may not even realize just how often they fall asleep. Even a split second could mean the difference between life and death," said Robert Hart, M.D., pulmonologist and nationally recognized sleep specialist, Suburban Lung Associates, Elk Grove, Ill.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) cites sleep apnea as a condition that increases a driver's risk for being involved in a crash. NHTSA reports that more than 4,000 nonfatal and 1,550 fatal crashes each year are attributed to sleep-deprived drivers.
The first step to getting help is diagnosis. Diagnosis is made through a clinical sleep study, which can be intimidating and time consuming. "It took me weeks to work up the nerve to even consider getting all these electrodes hooked up to me and have someone watch me sleep," said Darryl Corral, an OSA sufferer from Las Vegas. "Then it took months to get the tests scheduled. It was an overwhelming and inconvenient process from beginning to end. But my doctor's suspicions were correct, I have OSA and have to take a lot of precautions now. I wish I could have found out sooner but at least now I can get the help I need."
Unfortunately, in many areas of the country, Corral's experience is typical. Sleep labs are backlogged with patients waiting weeks to months to be clinically diagnosed via polysomnography (PSG). The PSG can also be costly for patients ranging from $1,500 to $3,000 per diagnosis.
But a new FDA-cleared at-home prescreening test called SleepStrip from an Illinois-based medical supply company, Medline Industries Inc., may help physicians, hospitals, and sleep centers nationwide screen and triage patients. According to Dennis Cook, a registered respiratory therapist and president of Medline's Respiratory division, this in- home screening will help allay some patient concerns, confirming whether or not they need further testing.
"This screening device is simple to apply and convenient because it can be used in the privacy of a patient's own home. More importantly, when you consider that more than 20 million sufferers may be undiagnosed, SleepStrip could help save lives. Doctors can use this to triage and find the most critically impaired patients and get them diagnosed and treated sooner," said Cook, RRT.
SleepStrip is applied by the patient at home just before going to sleep. During the patient's normal sleep pattern, the electrochemical- and microprocessor-controlled technology measures fluctuations in airflow. The patient must sleep for at least five hours. After removing the SleepStrip, a mathematical algorithm converts the airflow measurements. The patient can either hand deliver it or mail to a physician who can read it and tell whether the patient may have OSA and how severe it may be.

Courtesy of ARA Content

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