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Is Sleep Apnea Dangerous?

~ As Appeared in the September 2017 Issue of North Shore News ~

Q: Is Sleep Apnea Dangerous?

A: It can be if it’s left untreated. You may have heard that Carrie Fisher, the Star Wars heroine, died in part from complications associated with sleep apnea. Sleep apnea occurs when a person’s breathing is interrupted during sleep. People with the disorder stop breathing repeatedly, starving their brain and body from oxygen. Sleep apnea can affect anyone at any age, even children. The most common sign of sleep apnea is chronic loud snoring. Other signs are daytime sleepiness, restless sleep, waking up with a very sore or dry throat or morning headaches. Ask your bed partner if he or she has noticed that you snore, choke, gasp or seem to stop breathing during sleep.

Sleep apnea is serious and can cause a number of health problems including high blood pressure, stroke, heart failure, irregular heartbeats, heart attacks, diabetes, depression, headaches and worsening ADHD. It may also affect work and school activities and academic underachievement in children and adolescents. Please talk with your physician if you think you have a problem. Your doctor may recommend a sleep study (at home or at a sleep disorder center) to help with the diagnosis. Thankfully there are ways to fix sleep apnea. It can be as easy as changing the way you sleep or losing weight. Depending on the cause of your sleep apnea, a dental or surgical procedure may be helpful. A common treatment is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy – essentially a mask worn over the nose and/or mouth while you sleep that helps ensure you keep breathing. Treatment often results in quick improvements in how you feel!

Do you think you have sleep apnea? Visit the Primary Care Clinic at Kahuku Medical Center (KMC) and get some answers.

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