Diagnosis of Sleep Apnea Begins with Primary Care

Physicians Educate Patients on Risk Factors, Treatment of Sleep Apnea

DAYTON, Ohio (March 5, 2012) – Insufficient sleep is a major health concern in the United States. According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, sleep apnea affects more than 18 million Americans making it as common as type 2 diabetes. Premier HealthNet physicians want to get the word out about sleep apnea and key risk factors, symptoms and treatment options for the disorder.

The American Sleep Apnea Association defines sleep apnea as an involuntary cessation of breathing that occurs during sleep. Individuals who go untreated often stop breathing repeatedly during the night, sometimes for a minute or longer, usually, all while the sleeper is completely unaware.

“Sleep apnea is the number one sleep disorder among my patients,” said Dr. Joseph Allen of Family Medicine of Vandalia. “Individuals who have sleep apnea don’t get very restful sleep—they come in complaining about being tired all the time but they don’t notice any problems with their sleep.”

According to the National Institutes of Health, in addition to sleepiness, other symptoms of sleep apnea include morning headaches or a dry throat, difficulty concentrating, irritability or mood swings and urination at night. Children suffering from sleep apnea might experience different symptoms such as hyperactivity, hostile behavior and unusual sleeping positions.

Sleep apnea can be caused by a number of factors, one of which is obesity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that more than one-third of Americans are obese, putting much of the U.S. population at increased risk for developing sleep apnea.

Many sleep disorders can have negative long-term effects if left untreated. Sleep apnea, for example, can result in high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and depression.

“I tell my patients, ‘if you’re not sleeping right, you’re not going to feel right’ because the amount of sleep is tied to overall health,” said Dr. Allen. “If you’re only getting four to five hours of sleep per night, that can negatively impact your immune system and leave you more susceptible to different illnesses and conditions.”

Primary care physicians are the first stop for diagnosing and treating sleep apnea and other sleep problems and disorders. Physicians can advise patients on healthy habits or prescribe medication to address sleep problems. Sometimes, however, additional observation and expertise is required, so a patient might be referred to a sleep specialist.

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