Ask a Respiratory Therapist? - What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

Ask a Respiratory Therapist?

By Lori Peters, RRT, AMSR Respiratory Therapist

 Question:  What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

Answer:  Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a common disorder that involves pauses, or periods of apnea, while someone sleeps.  These pauses between breaths might last from 10 seconds to a few minutes.  The severity of apnea is measured in terms of the number of times the apnea occurs over the course of an hour; this can be anywhere from 5 to 30 times or more.  The apneic period ends when the patient takes his or her next breath, oftentimes with a loud snorting sound.  Sleep apnea results in low nighttime blood oxygen levels and daytime sleepiness, due to the restless sleep from the night before.

OSA is usually caused by an airway that has collapsed or is blocked for some reason; oftentimes, this reason is obesity. 

Untreated sleep apnea can increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and diabetes.  OSA might also increase the likelihood of irregular heartbeats and increase the possibility of work- or driving-related accidents.  In women, it can also increase or worsen the risk of heart failure.  

Diagnosing OSA involves a Sleep Study and treatment includes everything from lifestyle changes, such as weight loss, to CPAP therapy to surgery.

Many people are not even aware that they have OSA; however, a sleeping partner might notice irregularities in breathing.  If you think that someone you know might have sleep apnea, please check with your doctor.  Sleep apnea is a serious, chronic medical condition that should be diagnosed and treated by a qualified physician.

If your doctor diagnoses you, or someone you love, with sleep apnea, AMSR will be happy to answer any questions that you might about CPAP Therapy

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