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What Happens if Sleep Apnea is Left Untreated?

by | Jun 13, 2022

Over 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea. However, it is estimated that a much greater number of people go untreated in the United States.

It is concerning to know that there is an ever-growing rate of obesity in the country, given that sleep apnea is so apparent in people who have diabetes, hypertension, coronary heart disease, and obesity.

Untreated sleep apnea can wreak havoc on a person’s metabolic and cardiovascular systems by obstructing a person’s airflow during sleep.

Sleep Apnea Types

There are three types of sleep apnea: obstructive, central, and complex. So, symptoms and signs may vary from person to person.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs when your throat muscles overly relax, causing breathing to be irregular, fragmented, and temporarily stopped for multiple seconds at a time. Generally, when people talk about sleep apnea, they are likely talking about OSA.

Obesity is the most common cause of OSA, but heavy smoking, alcohol consumption, hypothyroidism, and a deviated septum can also cause OSA.

Central Sleep Apnea

Central sleep apnea occurs when your brain does not give proper signals to your throat muscles to continue the proper flow of breathing. Central sleep apnea is much rarer than obstructive sleep apnea and may occur after a stroke, heart failure, or time spent sleeping at a high altitude.

Complex Sleep Apnea

Lastly, complex sleep apnea is a combination of obstructive and central sleep apnea. Usually, people who suffer from complex sleep apnea are not known to have one specific cause of their illness. However, symptoms and likely causes are similar to those causing central sleep apnea.

With all that being said, if you have any of the following symptoms of sleep apnea, you should consider treatment.

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

  • Frequent or heavy snoring
  • Waking up often at night
  • Being irritable or groggy throughout the day
  • Daytime sleepiness or fatigue
  • Mental health problems
  • Repetitive occurrences of stopped breathing
  • Morning headaches
  • Acid reflux

Sleep Apnea Treatments

Most people believe that CPAP machines are the only way to treat sleep apnea, but that is not true at all. CPAP machines send a steady airflow – positive airway pressure (PAP) through a mask into your nose to prevent sleep time muscle collapses.

CPAP machines are the most common treatment for treating sleep-breathing disorders. However, CPAP machines can be cumbersome, difficult to set up, and unpleasing to our life partners. These annoyances drive people to, unfortunately, not treat their sleep apnea. Not to mention CPAP machines often cause stuffy or dry noses, infections, aerophagia, lung discomfort, and many other side effects.

Oral appliance therapy is an increasingly popular option for obstructive sleep apnea. An oral assistive device is custom-fitted to your mouth and feels like a mouth guard. Unlike a CPAP machine, oral appliance devices are transportable, quiet, and comfortable.

What happens if Sleep Apnea goes untreated?

Untreated sleep apnea can cause irreparable damage to the human body. Heart attacks, heart failure, diabetes, cardiomyopathy, stroke, hypertension, and arrhythmias, are some of the many health problems caused by untreated sleep apnea.

Can Sleep Apnea be Cured?

Unfortunately, there is no singular cure for sleep apnea. However, committing to a healthy lifestyle, such as maintaining a healthy weight, reducing alcohol intake, and engaging in consistent exercise habits may help alleviate sleep apnea symptoms. It is always important to treat sleep apnea if you notice that you or your loved one may have it, to avoid long-term health consequences.

People dealing with obstructive sleep apnea should first consult with a sleep specialist. To get to the root cause of your problem, doctors first need to understand more about your sleeping habits. If you are looking for a sleep apnea doctor in Lafayette, LA, look no further than SleepWell Louisiana.

Simply take our free online sleep assessment and schedule a consultation with us. Our sleep specialists will work with you to set up your Home Sleep Apnea Test (HSAT) and find the perfect oral appliance that suits your needs, in place of a bulky CPAP machine.