Sleep apnea can be difficult to diagnose, and many people live with it for years without realizing there’s a problem. In some cases, people live with sleep apnea for years before getting an accurate diagnosis. Along with disrupting the normal sleep cycle, sleep apnea can also cause a series of side effects, some of which can increase the risk for serious health problems.
At Lexington ENT & Allergy, Dr. Alexa Lessow helps to diagnose and design customized treatment plans for sleep apnea at our office in New York City.
How untreated sleep apnea can put your health at risk
People who suffer from sleep apnea experience pauses in their breathing throughout the night. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common type, and happens when the throat muscles relax during sleep and momentarily block the airway, interrupting the flow of oxygen.
If you have undiagnosed sleep apnea, you’re usually not aware of the fact that your airway is blocked or that you’ve temporarily stopped breathing at any point while you’re asleep. But you’ll most likely wake up feeling groggy, unusually tired, and with a dry throat or headache, even if you believe that you got a “full night’s sleep.”
Sleep apnea can do a lot more than make you feel tired and unable to concentrate at school or work the next day. Over time, sleep apnea can increase the risk of a number of serious and even potentially life threatening health problems including:
- High blood pressure
- Acid reflux
- Heart problems
- Increased liver enzymes
- High cholesterol
- Decreased blood oxygen
- Respiratory problems
- Weakened immune system
- Asthma (adults)
Certain health factors like being obese or severely overweight, asthma, diabetes, having a narrow airway, or smoking can also put people at higher risk for developing sleep apnea.
If you think you may have sleep apnea, our otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat doctor) Dr. Lessow can help. After reviewing your symptoms, Dr. Lessow will perform a comprehensive medical exam and may recommend that you undergo a sleep study to test you for sleep apnea.
There are a number of treatment options available depending on your circumstances. If you have underlying medical conditions like diabetes or cardiac issues, you may need medication to get them under control. Lifestyle modifications like maintaining a healthy weight, quitting smoking, and drinking alcohol in moderation can also help minimize your risk of sleep apnea.
Oral appliances are also available to keep your airway open and unobstructed while you sleep.
For more information about the risk factors, symptoms, and treatment options available for sleep apnea, contact us today to schedule an appointment with Dr. Lessow, or request an appointment online.