Sleep apnea is a major sleep disorder that affects more than 22 million people in the US. It occurs when your brain fails to signal the muscles that regulate your breathing. As a result, breathing is interrupted repeatedly during sleep, sometimes as often as hundreds of times in just one night. Consult a neurologist in Leesburg ASAP at the very first sign of sleep apnea for treatment and to prevent further complications.
Warning Signs of Sleep Apnea
Aside from severely interrupted breathing, there are numerous other red flags for sleep apnea. Patients typically experience:
- Snoring that alternates with quiet periods, aka an apnea episode
- Loud sounds as the breathing restarts
- Headaches and migraines in the morning
- Daytime sleepiness
- Chronic fatigue
- Memory and focus problems
Some of these symptoms, such as daytime sleepiness and mood problems, may not make sleep apnea obvious at first. A Dulles neurology specialist will be able to make sense of these symptoms, so schedule a consultation as soon as you can if you notice one or more of these flags in yourself or in your loved ones.
Middle-aged and older adults have a higher tendency to be diagnosed with sleep apnea, but it can affect anyone at any age. What’s alarming is that more than 90% of people with this sleep disorder don’t know that they have it. You stand a better chance of seeking a diagnosis if you’re aware of these risk factors:
- Increased prevalence in men
- Family history of sleep apnea
- Thick neck circumference of more than 40 cm on average
- Post menopause
- Endocrine conditions such as thyroid disorder
- Head and neck tissue defects
- Deviated nasal septum
Complications of Untreated Sleep Apnea
Know that sleep apnea doesn’t go away on its own. In fact, it will only get worse the longer it goes untreated. Health problems that can stem from undiagnosed sleep apnea are:
- High blood pressure
- Improper responses to glucose and insulin
- Unstable oxygen levels
- Weight gain
- Cardiovascular problems
- Issues with mood
- Cognitive problems
Furthermore, sleep apnea can negatively impact your life even at the early stages. Patients report significant disturbance in their day to day life due to the lack of sleep, leading to decreased work productivity, unsatisfactory social relationships, and lower quality of life. You also risk getting into serious accidents if you doze off while driving a car or operating machinery.
Getting a Sleep Apnea Diagnosis
After your initial consultation with a neurologist in Leesburg, VA, you may be asked to undergo a sleep study to observe your breathing patterns while you sleep. Expect to undergo a comprehensive physical exam, which can include checking your mouth, neck, and throat to determine underlying causes. You’ll also be asked to provide a detailed medical history and answer questions about your bedtime routine and sleep.
Treatment for sleep apnea can range from lifestyle changes to wearing a CPAP mask and surgery if applicable. However, the most important thing is to get it diagnosed early so you can regain your quality of life. So schedule an appointment with a Leesburg neurologist as soon as you are able to.