What Can Happen if Sleep Apnea Goes Untreated?
Untreated sleep apnea can lead to serious health problems such as high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Get expert diagnosis and treatment at Southern ENT Associates. Contact us today for more information or book an appointment to see one of our knowledgeable specialists. We have convenient locations to serve you in Thibodaux LA, Houma LA, Raceland LA, Morgan City LA, New Iberia LA, and Youngsville LA.
Table of Contents:
The causes of sleep apnea
Health complications of sleep apnea
It’s been a while since snoring was merely considered the funny sounds Grandpa made when he napped. We now know that snoring may be an indicator of a serious sleep disorder called obstructive sleep apnea. All snoring stems from tissue vibrating in the throat, and in some cases, this tissue can collapse completely enough that your breathing stops during sleep.
While your brain sends signals to wake you enough to start breathing again, you may not be aware of these sleep interruptions. You may feel tired during the day because of them, but this is just the beginning of the effects that sleep apnea can create if it’s left untreated. It can become a risk factor or source contributor to a range of serious health complications over time.
Muscles that support the soft palate tissue at the back of your mouth relax while you’re asleep. This leads to the collapse of these tissues, and the base of your tongue falls back as well. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when this tissue collapses to block the airway through your throat. The sound of snoring is due to vibrations of these tissues as air struggles to get through.
Risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea include:
• Narrow airways, due to congenital reasons or swollen tissue like tonsils or adenoids
• Carrying excess weight, since fat deposits in surrounding areas aggravate airflow
• Smoking, which contributes to inflammation and fluid retention in your throat
• Age and gender, as more men than women are affected, and older adults are more likely to develop the condition
• Use of alcohol or some medications, such as tranquilizers and sedatives
• Nasal or sinus irregularities, such as a deviated septum, that cause breathing issues
There’s a second, less common type of breathing issue called central sleep apnea. This happens when your brain’s messages directing regular breathing fail.
The longer you live with untreated sleep apnea, the more serious the potential complications become.
Daytime fatigue is perhaps the most common short-term symptom, noticeable through difficulties concentrating and falling asleep throughout the day. Your mood may also suffer, with irritability and depression being common.
Affects others, too
Your sleep apnea could have effects on those around you, also, spreading daytime fatigue to a spouse, for example, whose sleep suffers from your disruptions and snoring.
High blood pressure
High blood pressure compensates for lower levels of oxygen in your blood, forcing the heart to work harder to deliver enough oxygen. High blood pressure, or hypertension, has a range of health issues itself, so the aggravation from sleep apnea is an unwelcome complication.
Heart attack risk climbs for sleep apnea patients since low blood oxygen can aggravate irregular heartbeats. Heart disease and strokes are connected to sleep apnea as well as hypertension.
Type 2 diabetes
The risk for Type 2 diabetes climbs since sleep apnea can affect insulin resistance, a primary factor in climbing blood sugar levels. In turn, diabetes can contribute to heart and blood vessel issues.
Surgical and medication complications
Surgical procedures and the use of some medications can be complicated by sleep apnea. General anesthesia can be affected by the collapse of soft tissue in the throat, and medications with sedative effects can cause further sleep difficulties.
Diagnosis and treatment for sleep apnea start with a visit to Southern ENT. Our professionals can assess your condition and recommend your next steps to get you over the sleep apnea hurdle. We serve patients from Thibodaux LA, Houma LA, Raceland LA, Morgan City LA, New Iberia LA, and Youngsville LA, and surrounding areas