People with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) have disrupted sleep and low blood oxygen levels. When obstructive sleep apnea occurs, the tongue is trapped against the back of the throat. This blocks the upper airway and airflow ceases. When the oxygen level in the brain becomes low enough, the person sleeping partially awakens, the blockage in the throat clears, and the flow of air will begin again, usually with a loud gasp.
Repeated cycles of lessened oxygenation can lead to very serious cardiovascular problems. Additionally, these individuals suffer from excessive daytime sleepiness, depression, and loss of concentration. Some patients have obstructions that are less severe called Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS). In either case, the individuals suffer many of the same symptoms. The initial step in treatment resides in recognition of the symptoms and seeking necessary consultation. Dental appliances can be prescribed for mild sleep disordered breathing, but they are not effective for everyone with OSA. Treatment for more severe sleep apnea may consist of using a nasal CPAP (continuous positive air pressure) machine that delivers pressurized oxygen through a nasal mask to lessen obstruction at night.
OSA is a very serious condition that needs careful attention and treatment. Most major medical plans offer coverage for diagnosis and treatment.
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