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Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that goes heavily under-diagnosed. Though sleep apnea has been studied closely and medical professionals are able to pinpoint symptoms, there are problems that can come up as a result of suffering from sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is a disorder where breathing stops and restarts. This occurs when, while sleeping, a patient’s throat muscles relax and the tongue falls back thus creating a blockage in the airway. When this happens, the brain detects the change and wakes the patient up. This kind of reaction can happen many times throughout the night. Some of the obvious risks of untreated sleep apnea include high blood pressure and reduced oxygen levels in the blood. Reduced oxygen levels in the blood create the risk for heart attack or atrial fibrillation.

Sleep apnea can cause those suffering from it to experience fatigue throughout their day because of not having a restful sleep the night before. This fatigue can trickle into work life causing a few problems that wouldn’t normally be present. Those who suffer from sleep apnea are 2.5 more times likely to be involved in a traffic accident than those who don’t suffer.

One of the most common methods utilized to treat sleep apnea is a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. These machines consist of a mask that fits over the nose and mouth. This mask is then connected to a motorized machine and a tube that blows air into the patient’s airway to keep it open. Treating sleep apnea with CPAP reduces the risk of fatal and nonfatal motor vehicle accidents by 52 percent and the risk of stroke by 31 percent.

It’s been noted that a third of patients in primary care practices could be at a high risk for suffering from sleep apnea. These patients should obtain a sleep history to discern if they suffer from sleep apnea. This can be included as part of a routine health examination or part of evaluating a specific symptom set.

Though under-diagnosed, sleep apnea can be treated effectively and the quality of life of the patient can be greatly increased. Through careful examination and being proactive about the disorder, sleep apnea and the problems that stem from it are easily managed.