Obstructive sleep apnea can be life-threatening | News

Lack of restful sleep is often caused by obstructive sleep apnea, leading to increased risk for heart problems and other health conditions.

National Sleep Awareness Week is Sunday, March 13, to Saturday, March 19, when outreach efforts help educate the public about the dangers of disrupted sleep.

Common signs of sleep apnea can include frequent loud snoring and gasping for air during sleep. Excess body weight is present in more than 60% of the patients referred for a diagnostic sleep evaluation.

An estimated 26% of adults age 30 to 70 have sleep apnea. Several treatment options exist including Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP). A procedure now offered at Abrazo Arrowhead Campus provides an alternative to the masks and hoses of CPAP machines.

The Inspire Upper Airway Stimulation system is a pacemaker-size device that works from inside the body and with the patient’s natural breathing process. It delivers mild stimulation to key airway muscles to keep the airway open during sleep.

“Many with sleep apnea don’t even know they have a problem. Obstructive sleep apnea can be a potentially life-threatening condition,” said Dr. Richard Pearlstein, an otolaryngologist on the medical staff at Abrazo Arrowhead Campus.

For example, heart disease and obstructive sleep apnea can be a killer combination. Sleep apnea treatment may help control blood pressure, reduce the risk of major cardiac events, and reduce incidence and recurrence of atrial fibrillation.

While CPAP is often successful, studies show that many users eventually stop using it. Inspire provides an alternative for those who do not want or cannot tolerate wearing a CPAP.

The Inspire system includes a small nerve stimulator implanted under the skin similar to a pacemaker. Users can turn it on or off with a handheld remote control.

Inspire is a significant advance in sleep apnea treatment. It helps reduce sleep apnea events and importantly, has a high level of patient satisfaction and therapy adherence, Pearlstein said.

A recent study said sleep disorders account for nearly $95 billion annually in health care utilization and costs in the United States. Poor sleep also causes fatigue, leading to poor job performance and increased risk for traffic and work-related accidents.

Common symptoms of sleep apnea:

• Excessive daytime sleepiness and fatigue.

• Dry mouth or headaches when waking.

• Sexual dysfunction or decreased libido.

• Waking up often during the night to urinate.

• Decreases in neurocognitive skills.

Sleep apnea symptoms may be different for women compared with men. Women who have sleep apnea more often report headache, fatigue, depression, anxiety, insomnia and sleep disruption.

For more information on services available at Abrazo Arrowhead Campus, visit AbrazoHealth.com.

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