People often talk about sleep apnea as if every diagnosis is the same. However, this sleep disorder can occur for various reasons and can range in severity. What everyone with sleep apnea does have in common is the fact that they stop breathing in their sleep, which keeps them from getting the oxygen they need.
Dr. Vandana Kumra works with people in the New York City metro area with obstructive sleep apnea or OSA. This type of sleep apnea occurs because something partially or entirely blocks your airway during sleep.
Could you have OSA? Here’s how to spot the signs and why you shouldn’t ignore them.
This form of sleep apnea is the most common and typically occurs when throat muscles relax, causing soft tissue to block your airway. When this happens, you experience an “apnea” — you stop breathing.
Signs of OSA include:
- Loud snoring
- Waking suddenly from choking or gasping
- Breathing that seems to pause during sleep
- Morning headaches, sore throats, or dry mouth
- Excessive sleepiness or difficulty concentrating during the day
- Irritability or depression
- High blood pressure or reduced libido
OSA can develop for several reasons, including smoking and being overweight. However, your chances of this disorder also increase if you have ENT issues, like structural problems that affect your breathing, or conditions like allergies.
The problem with sleep apnea
As mentioned above, the problem with sleep apnea is that your body doesn’t get the oxygen it needs to function properly. This can put your body under significant strain, leading to numerous health issues, such as:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Heart problems, including high blood pressure, strokes, and heart attacks
- Metabolic syndrome
- Liver disease or scarring
- Shortened life span
Sleep apnea can also increase your chances of complications following surgery.
Because of the serious health risks seen with OSA, seeing an expert is essential if you think you have the condition.
Diagnosing sleep apnea
The good news about sleep apnea is that diagnosing the condition is completely painless.
First, Dr. Kumra reviews your symptoms and evaluates your head and neck. She could also perform an endoscopy to check the inside of your throat and neck for structural issues that could be causing your symptoms.
Additional tests for sleep apnea typically include sleep studies that evaluate and monitor your breathing and bodily functions while you sleep. These tests can either take place at home or at a sleep center.
Receiving a diagnosis for OSA is crucial in determining the best course of treatment. That’s because it can determine the severity of your condition, including how many times you stop breathing in a single hour.
Generally speaking, doctors determine whether to treat OSA based on its severity. For example, people with mild cases usually stop breathing 5-15 times per hour of sleep, while people with severe OSA typically pause more than 30 times. There are also moderate cases that fall in between.
We recommend treatment if you have moderate-to-severe OSA. However, that doesn’t mean you can ignore a mild case of OSA. Instead, Dr. Kumra makes treatment suggestions based on your symptoms, preferences, and whether you have additional health issues.
In most cases, a continuous positive airway pressure or CPAP machine can address OSA symptoms. However, Dr. Kumra could also suggest sinus or throat surgery depending on your unique needs.
Fortunately, you don’t have to diagnose or treat yourself; Dr. Kumra provides the expert care you need to protect your health moving forward.
Worried you have OSA? Schedule a consultation with Vandana Kumra, MD, at her New York City practice by calling 914-867-0399 today.