Sleep Apnea: Are there health risks?

Sleep apnea is a condition in which people stop sleeping repeatedly for very brief periods. An oral surgeon can tell you that symptoms of sleep apnea include loud snoring, daytime drowsiness, morning headaches and dry or sore throat upon waking.

This condition is more than a nuisance for a sleeping partner, though. Sleep can have serious consequences for your health.

During the short apneic episodes when breathing temporarily ceases, the oxygen levels in your blood drop. The brain senses this and wakes you briefly to resume normal breathing.

In addition to its negative effects on your quality of life, sleep apnea also appears to be related to heart disease (including atrial fibrillation and congestive heart failure), high blood pressure and stroke, all of which can have significant effects on your health. In patients with heart disease, repeated episodes of hypoxia (low blood oxygen) may result in fatal cardiac events.

With obstructive sleep apnea, in which the soft tissues at the rear of the throat collapse during sleep and cover up the airway opening, patients may consult with an oral surgeon for treatments that reposition the tongue or jaw to prevent the soft tissues from relaxing during sleep.

Although a surgeon may be involved in treatment for sleep apnea, the condition does not necessarily require oral surgery. Many patients will improve with a more conservative intervention. Surgery will only be considered in rare cases in which the oral appliance therapy or continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) mask is ineffective.

Before seeking treatment from an oral surgeon, though, patients should undergo a sleep study to confirm the obstructive sleep apnea diagnosis. If obstructive sleep apnea is not causing your problems, then treatment for it won’t relieve your symptoms. You may be able to complete the sleep study in the comfort of your own home.

Getting effective treatment for sleep apnea has the potential to be literally life-saving for some patients. If you have been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, consult with either of our oral surgery offices today.