Possible Complications of Undiagnosed Sleep Apnea

It's becoming clear that a severe case of Sleep Apnea is dangerous if it is left untreated, but researchers have found that among the different dangers of sleep apnea, premature death is one of them. The American Sleep Apnea Association states that "22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, with 80 percent of the cases of moderate and severe obstructive sleep apnea undiagnosed." When moderate to severe sleep apnea goes untreated, it can lead to other severe health conditions that will be discussed below.


Periodontitis is an inflammatory disease that attacks the tissue around your teeth, which causes receding gums and loose teeth. How could sleep apnea affect your teeth?

Loss of oxygen has an adverse effect on your entire body and can cause inflammatory diseases, including periodontitis. A recent study showed that 60% of people with periodontitis had obstructive sleep apnea. It was also found that treatment of OSA also brought the inflammation down.

Heart Conditions

High blood pressure, chronic heart failure, atrial fibrillation, stroke, and other cardiovascular problems are associated with sleep apnea. This is because the body is being deprived of oxygen. It works in the same way as COPD leading to chronic heart failure. Less oxygen in the blood puts a strain on the heart, as well as the whole cardiovascular system.

Premature Death

A study published in Sleep, a medical journal of the Sleep Research Society and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, studied a large group of sleep apnea patients between the ages of 30 and 60. They were divided into groups based on the severity of sleep apnea and were observed overnight to get an average of how many times they stopped breathing.

They conducted a follow-up 18 years later, and 80 of the participants had died. They found that the risk of death was 3.2 times higher among the group with the most severe sleep apnea after they had adjusted other risk factors such as BMI, age and sex.

It was also found that 42% of the deaths of those with severe sleep apnea had died from heart disease. Those who had left their sleep apnea untreated were five times more likely to die from a heart condition.

It's essential to get checked out if you suspect that you might have sleep apnea. It might seem like a hassle, but having to be treated for a heart condition later will be worse. It's also worth having a longer life and a better quality of life in the meantime.

Information on this page is for reference and educational purposes only. For more information about sleep apnea, talk to your doctor or primary care provider.

Page last updated: October 2, 2018


About Scott Ridl: Scott joined American Medical Sales and Rentals in 2008 as a Web Manager and Content Writer. He is a writer and designer. He is extensively trained on oxygen therapy products from leading manufacturers such as Inogen, Respironics, Chart, Invacare, ResMed and more. Scott works closely with respiratory therapists and oxygen specialists to educate the community about oxygen therapy products, COPD, asthma and lung diseases. He writes weekly columns and is passionate about educating the community on oxygen therapy and respiratory issues.

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