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Concerned About Sleep Apnea? See An ENT Specialist

written by Becki Andrus

If you or a loved one has symptoms of sleep apnea, then it’s essential to seek diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible. This condition can have a domino effect on many areas of your life.

The good news is that effective treatments are available through an ENT specialist.

Being able to sleep well throughout the night has an impact on energy levels and function during the day. It’s essential that you are getting sufficient oxygen levels while sleeping to ensure your body has the resources needed for overall health.

Different Types of Sleep Apnea

There are actually different types of sleep disorders that fall in the category of sleep apnea. All of these conditions result in breathing that stops and starts repeatedly throughout the night.

When you visit an ENT for diagnosis and treatment, it’s essential to determine the type of sleep apnea you are experiencing.

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea: This type of sleep apnea is the most common type. It happens because the throat muscles relax while you sleep, causing a blockage in the breathing pathways.
  • Central Sleep Apnea: If there is a disruption in the way the brain is sending signals that control breathing, then it is classified as central sleep apnea.
  • Complex Sleep Apnea: The third type of diagnosis happens if someone has both obstructive and central sleep apnea.

It’s important to talk to an ENT right away if you suspect any type of sleep apnea. Not only can treatment reduce your symptoms, but immediate treatment can also be helpful for preventing other, more serious complications.

What Causes Central Sleep Apnea?

The cause of sleep apnea varies, depending on the type of condition. For example, central sleep apnea happens because of brain signal problems and not a structural issue. Different factors can increase the risk of central sleep apnea.

  • Age: This type of sleep apnea is most common in people who are middle-aged or older.
  • Gender: Men have a higher risk of central sleep apnea compared to women.
  • Medication Use: Certain types of medications can increase the risk, especially long-acting drugs and narcotics.
  • Heart Conditions: When a person has congestive heart failure or stroke, it increases the risk of central sleep apnea.

What Causes Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

On the other hand, obstructive sleep apnea is happening because of a structural collapse. When the throat muscles relax, they narrow the airway and close completely when you breathe in. When the brain senses that you aren’t breathing, it triggers you to awaken briefly to reopen the airway and resume breathing.

There are many risk factors that can increase the likelihood of obstructive sleep apnea.

  • Overweight: People carrying extra weight have an increased risk of sleep apnea because fat deposits around the airway can contribute to airway obstruction.
  • Neck Size: A larger, thicker neck can sometimes mean that the airways are narrower.
  • Gender: Men have a higher risk of sleep apnea compared to women.
  • Enlarged Tonsils or Adenoids: When the tonsils or adenoids become enlarged, it reduces the airway size. This risk factor is most common in children.
  • Substance Use: Certain types of substances can relax the muscles in the throat, such as tranquilizers, sedatives, and alcohol.
  • Age: The risk of obstructive sleep apnea goes up in older adults.
  • Family History: When you have close family members with sleep apnea, then it means that you are also at risk for this condition.
  • Smoking: Since smoke increases fluid retention and inflammation, it can increase the risk of sleep apnea by three times.
  • Nasal Congestion: When the sinuses and nasal passages are inflamed or clocked, it can affect breathing. Congestion might be a symptom of an underlying cause, such as allergies or an anatomical problem.
  • Other Medical Conditions: Certain health issues can increase the likelihood of obstructive sleep apnea, such as high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, type 2 diabetes, lung diseases, hormonal disorders, polycystic ovary syndrome, and Parkinson’s disease.

Most Common Signs of Sleep Apnea

It’s important to watch for common signs of sleep apnea to know when it is time to meet with an ENT.

  • Snoring
  • Gasping for air while sleeping
  • Snoring or choking during the night
  • Breathing that stops during the night
  • Headache in the morning
  • Dry mouth in the morning
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Hypersomnia (excessive sleepiness during the day)
  • Difficulty with concentration during the day

Many times, these symptoms are observed by another person. If you are sharing a bed, ask your partner to let you know about any of the sleep apnea symptoms they observe.

Keep in mind that the symptoms and signs are similar for all types of sleep apnea. So, it can be difficult to know which type you have, which is why a consultation with a sleep apnea specialist is essential.

Why It’s Essential to Talk to an ENT About Sleep Apnea

If you suspect sleep apnea, then it’s critical that you schedule an appointment with an ENT as soon as possible. Potential complications can develop, especially when this condition is left untreated.

  • Fatigue During the Day: Since you aren’t getting quality rest at night, it can result in fatigue, drowsiness, and irritability during the day. Some people find it difficult to concentrate, which can take a toll on their ability to function at home and work.
  • Heart Problems: When the blood oxygen levels drop throughout the night, it can strain the cardiovascular system. The risk of heart problems, stroke, atrial fibrillation, abnormal heartbeat, and high blood pressure goes up because the heart is over-working to compensate for the lower blood oxygen levels.
  • Other Health Conditions: The risk of different types of health conditions increases in patients with sleep apnea, including type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, liver problems, and more.
  • Surgery and Medication Complications: When a person is taking medications or recovering after surgery, obstructive sleep apnea can cause an issue because of blocked breathing.

Not only does sleep apnea affect the patient’s quality of sleep. But the snoring and sleep disruptions can also affect their bed partner as well. When loud snoring happens, it might cause issues in the relationship because the partner needs to sleep in another bedroom.

When to Talk to an ENT for Sleep Apnea Treatment

There is no reason to delay a conversation with an ENT. If you notice any sleep apnea symptoms, then the best thing you can do is schedule a consultation and examination.

The earlier you seek treatment, the better your chance of reducing the risk of serious complications.

Reach out at your convenience when you are ready to book an appointment with an ENT and live in the Collin County or Dallas areas. Collin County Ear, Nose, and Throat is here to assist with full-service diagnostics and treatment. We have two nearby offices in Plano, TX, and Frisco. Access our online form when you would like to request an appointment, or call: (972) 596-4005.

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