Has anyone ever told you that you snore loudly? Do you have difficulty concentrating, or do you feel groggy and poorly rested? These are just a few signs of sleep apnea, a disorder that describes pauses in breathing while you sleep.
At ENT New York, Dr. Vandana Kumra has extensive experience diagnosing and treating sleep apnea. Here, she shares her insights into sleep apnea and why you shouldn’t ignore this serious condition.
Sleep apnea basics
While everyone is different, most adults need between 7-9 hours of quality sleep each day. Unfortunately, growing numbers of Americans aren’t reaching these numbers for a variety of reasons, including sleep apnea.
There are different forms of sleep apnea, but obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is most common. When you have OSA, something physically blocks your upper airway — often soft tissue that drops into the back of your throat while you sleep. The result? You stop breathing for 10 seconds or longer.
Sleep apnea can vary in severity. For example, some people only stop breathing 5-15 times during each hour of sleep. However, in severe cases, people can have more than 30 episodes in one hour.
Even mild cases of sleep apnea can put your health at risk because your body needs oxygen to function.
The risks of sleep apnea
When you don’t get enough oxygen, it puts added strain on your whole health. Over time, the lack of oxygen can take a toll on your body, especially your heart, putting you at risk for:
- High blood pressure
- Increased heart rate
- Increased inflammation
- Unhealthy changes in blood vessels
- Abnormal heart rhythms
- Heart attack
Sleep apnea can also exacerbate respiratory problems, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma. Plus, it interferes with your endocrine and digestive systems, increasing your chances of developing fatty liver disease and type 2 diabetes.
Unfortunately, this long-term stress on your body can also put you at risk for sudden cardiac arrest.
Avoiding sleep apnea complications
An estimated 12 million Americans live with sleep apnea, but many haven’t received a diagnosis. The key to avoiding the dangers of this disorder lies in early detection and treatment.
Dr. Kumra recommends scheduling an appointment if you notice symptoms that include:
- Daytime sleepiness or fatigue from
- Waking up frequently to urinate while sleeping
- Waking up short of breath or with a sore throat or dry mouth
- Insomnia or restless sleep
- Loud snoring, especially if your breathing stops or you gasp for air
- Drowsiness while driving
- Difficulty concentrating
- Erectile dysfunction or decreased libido
If any of these symptoms sound familiar, Dr. Kumra can look for signs of sleep apnea by evaluating your head and neck and performing an upper endoscopy. During this procedure, she assesses the inside of your neck and throat for physical issues that cause apneas.
Based on your evaluation, Dr. Kumra could also recommend sleep studies to gather more detailed information on the severity of your condition.
In most cases, Dr. Kumra can treat OSA with a continuous positive airway pressure — or CPAP — machine. These devices deliver a constant stream of oxygen into your nose and mouth while you sleep, which keeps your airway open. However, sinus or throat surgery can provide better results in some cases.
Do you have sleep apnea? Don’t put your health at risk. Contact our office in New York City by calling 646-859-6136 or booking an appointment online today.