Is Sleep Apnea Dangerous?

Snoring is a problem. Snoring because of sleep apnea is a bigger problem. 

Occasional snoring when you’re really tired or have had a few too many drinks is nothing to worry about, unless, of course, your bed partner complains. But if you have sleep apnea, you have bigger problems to worry about.

At Oral Facial Surgery Specialists at The Woodlands in Texas, we see all types of sleep apnea with varying degrees of symptom severity. But even the mildest cases can lead to serious health issues. Here’s what you need to know.

Why see maxillofacial surgeons about your sleep apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when something blocks your airway while you sleep. It disrupts your sleeping rhythm, intermittently stops your breathing, and decreases oxygen flow to your brain. 

In many cases, obstructive sleep apnea develops because as the muscles in your throat relax, the walls of your throat, your tongue, and your uvula collapse inward and obstruct your breathing. 

Several factors contribute to obstructive sleep apnea, including abnormal oral structures that interfere with breathing. That’s where our team comes in. If conservative treatments don’t resolve your obstructive sleep apnea, you may need a surgical procedure to correct the problem anatomically.

Health problems associated with obstructive sleep apnea

Interrupted nighttime breathing may seem like more of a nuisance than a danger, but those little starts and stops trigger a chain reaction of health issues. 

Many of the problems are reciprocal, meaning the health condition can cause sleep apnea, and sleep apnea can cause the condition. Here are the most common risks.

Hypertension

Intermittent breathing places your body under significant stress. In turn, your hormones kick in to lower your stress level, and your blood pressure rises as a result of the activity. 

Hypertension is one of the known risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea and can make your symptoms worse.

Cardiovascular disease

Obstructive sleep apnea changes the way your body receives and processes oxygen. This confuses your brain and affects how it controls the flow of blood in your arteries. 

The resulting low oxygen levels throughout your body can lead to heart problems, like heart attacks, stroke, and atrial fibrillation.

Weight gain

When you have sleep apnea, your body produces a flood of hormones to try to regulate your systems. One of those hormones, ghrelin, makes you crave sweets and carbs, which leads to weight gain. The more weight you gain, the less active you become, so you gain more weight. 

Ironically, being overweight or obese can actually be the cause of your sleep apnea. Heavier people are more likely to have sleep apnea than those at a healthy weight. So shedding a few pounds may resolve your sleep apnea and will certainly decrease your chances of weight-related diseases.

Type 2 diabetes

Speaking of weight-related diseases, Type 2 diabetes is one of the top conditions related to obesity. And while there’s no conclusive evidence that Type 2 diabetes and sleep apnea are directly connected, they are both linked to being overweight. 

Part of the problem is that poor quality sleep can prevent your body from processing insulin properly, the root of Type 2 diabetes. 

Injuries

Classic symptoms of sleep apnea include daytime drowsiness, fatigue, and an inability to focus. This means your reaction time when you’re driving may be slower, which may lead to an auto accident.

It may also lead to trips and falls as well as accidents of inattention, like knife cuts and power tool injuries. 

What can you do about obstructive sleep apnea?

We always start with the most conservative treatments first, and that often means a simple oral device that keeps your jaw in a forward position that allows air to move in and out more freely.

Some people need a bit more assistance, in which case a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine may help. You wear a face mask attached to a hose that’s attached to a bedside machine. The device ensures that air continually flows through your airway.

If the soft tissues in your throat are too loose, we may be able to tighten them using radiofrequency technology. This is not a surgical procedure, but we perform it while you’re under general anesthesia.

To correct anatomical abnormalities, we may perform a surgical procedure called uvulo-palato-pharyngo-plasty (UPPP). Depending on your condition, we may use a traditional surgical method or a laser-assisted technique to increase the size of your airway and decrease the potential for tissue collapse.

Don’t ignore sleep apnea. Prevent serious health problems by coming in for a complete sleep apnea exam and find out which treatment is best for you. To schedule an appointment, call our friendly staff, or book a consultation using our online tool.

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