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Wake Up Call - As Many as 90% of Those with Sleep Apnea Don’t Know They Have the Disorder

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Wake Up Call - As Many as 90% of Those with Sleep Apnea Don’t Know They Have the Disorder

As June is Men’s Health Awareness Month, Dr. Douglas Chiriboga, family medicine physician at Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center, shares how to identify signs of sleep apnea and when to seek treatment. In his practice, Dr. Chiriboga often speaks with men who tell him that their partner has sent them for a health screening due to loud snoring. It’s often the partner who flags the most recognizable symptom of the condition.

A consistent sleep routine that’s disrupted with unwanted snoring or breathing problems could be a sign of sleep apnea. As many as 90% of those with sleep apnea don’t know they have the disorder. It’s estimated that 30 million Americans have sleep apnea, but only six million are diagnosed, according to the American Medical Association. And this interruption of the respiratory system can pose serious health complications.

There are several physiological differences to suggest why men are more prone to develop the condition than women. It’s thought that differences in obesity, upper airway anatomy, breathing control, hormones, and aging all play a role.

What is Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is when the breathing pattern starts and stops during sleep. People with sleep apnea have an increased risk of hypertension, irregular heartbeat and various cardiovascular diseases. The condition has also been linked to a higher prevalence of stroke. Additionally, new studies have correlated sleep apnea with accelerating cognitive decline in healthy men. More recently, those with sleep apnea face a 75% increased risk of developing long COVID after a COVID-19 infection.

What are the Symptoms

The most common sleep apnea symptoms include snoring and gasping for air during sleep, but daytime fatigue, sleepiness, irritability, and dry mouth are also indicators of the condition. Most sufferers are unaware they have the condition and typically seek care after their spouse or partner complains of their snoring.

When to Seek Medical Care

If you or someone close to you notice excessive, unusual breathing patterns or disrupted sleep, visit your health care provider. Once sleep apnea is diagnosed, multiple treatments are available. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), a machine that keeps airways open during sleep, and lifestyle changes are two common effective treatments for the condition.

Visit our Pomona Valley Health Center site to schedule an appointment with a physician in your neighborhood to find out if you have sleep apnea.