Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Everything You Should Know About It

Obstructive sleep apnea is a serious disease that requires extra attention and treatment. It can happen to anyone, so even if you don’t suffer from it, you still need to know the essentials to detect symptoms and treat them accordingly timely. If you are wondering, what is obstructive sleep apnea, and you want to know more about this disease, then this article is definitely for you.

I’m a certified therapist with years of experience, and sleep medicine is my specialization. I suffered a lot from insomnia years ago, so that I decided to dig deeper as a scientist. I know everything about sleep disorders, symptoms, causes, and treatment ways. I always try to share my professional experience with others to grant them healthier sleep.

Down below, I will tell you everything you need to know about obstructive sleep apnea, what causes the disease, what are the main symptoms, and how to diagnose and treat it. Keep reading to get all answers to the most commonly asked questions about this disorder.

Definition of Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is a common sleeping disorder that is characterized by cessation of breathing during sleep. It’s a serious problem, as it can repeatedly occur during the night.

Obstructive sleep apnea syndrome happens when throat muscles relax and block the airway so that breathing can stop for a short period. 

Usually, snoring is the most common symptom of this disorder, though people think it’s not dangerous at all. The problem decreases the level of oxygen that can potentially cause arrhythmia.

What Is the Main Cause of Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

Woman sleeping in the night in the bed

Obstructive sleep apnea ICD 10, or simply OSA, happens during sleep when the airway muscles relax and hinder the breathing process, as a throat becomes very narrow. These muscles include a tongue, tonsils, uvula, and soft palate.

Breath cessation can happen a few times per hour, and it reduces the level of oxygen in the blood and increases the buildup of carbon dioxide. The brain understands that the breathing is inadequate, so a person can awaken for a second to get airways reopened and start breathing normally.

You may not even notice that you woke up a few times at night, as it happens just for a moment. The breathing disruptions can make you feel tired and drowsy because you don’t reach the deep phase of sleep.

Mild obstructive sleep apnea can develop in anyone. However, people with the following problems are at higher risks:

  • Excessive weight. Overweight people suffer from this sleeping disorder very often. Fat deposits can obstruct breathing in the area of the upper airway. Therefore, chances are pretty high that a person already suffers from the disease or can develop the illness. If an overweight person sleeps on their back, the situation can get even more complicated.
  • Medical conditions related to obesity. People with hypothyroidism or polycystic ovary syndrome can also have sleeping disorders more often. These diagnoses also might cause OSA. 
  • Naturally narrow airway. A person can simply have genetically inherited narrow airways that can cause the disorder. Also, OSA can occur when people have enlarged adenoids or tonsils that can block the airflow.
  • Hypertension or simply high blood pressure. It can be another factor that causes OSA syndrome.
  • Family history of OSA. If some of your family members have suffered from OSA, the chances are you have inherited the disease. So, you are in the group with increased risks.
  • Chronic nasal congestion. No matter what the reason is, if your nose is congested during the night, you will probably have obstructive sleep apnea, as your nasal airways will be swollen.
  • Diabetes. People diagnosed with diabetes have higher chances of developing OSA.
  • Asthma. Asthmatic people have higher risks of suffering from this form of sleeping disorder. 
  • Gender. Men are twice more likely to get an OSA, and premenopausal women have increased chances of suffering from the disorder. 
  • Smoking. Smokers are much more likely to develop OSA syndrome rather than non-smokers.

Most Common Obstructive Sleep Apnea Symptoms

The lack of oxygen caused by impaired breathing can affect all of your body. If you don’t know whether you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea disorder or not, check out the following symptoms. These characteristics are the main signals of having the disease:

  • bad sleep quality;
  • loud snoring;
  • drowsiness throughout the day;
  • lack of concentration;
  • forgetfulness;
  • observed breath cessation during the night;
  • awakening abruptly while choking or gasping;
  • sore throat;
  • heartaches;
  • dry mouth;
  • headache in the morning;
  • high blood pressure;
  • sweating while sleeping;
  • loss of interest in sexual activities;
  • leg swelling;
  • mood changes.

Visiting a doctor is imperative to avoid the complication of obstructive sleep apnea. These options might include the following:

  • Drowsiness throughout the day. When having an OSA, a person has trouble reaching a deep phase of sleep and, therefore, the brain can’t rest well. Thus, it gets much harder to feel active and concentrated. People with complicated conditions can even fall asleep in a car or while working.
  • Cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attack, hypertension, arrhythmia, and even stroke.
  • Eye dryness, glaucoma, and other eye problems.
  • Type 2 diabetes.
  • Pregnancy complications.
  • Surgery complications related to anesthesia.

How to Diagnose Obstructive Sleep Apnea

If you have some of the symptoms described above, then you should visit a doctor as soon as possible. Pay extra attention if you are snoring very loudly, waking up in the middle of the night gasping, having breathing pauses repeatedly, or feeling very tired during the day. Obstructive sleep apnea diagnosis has to be revealed on time and treated properly so that you can have a healthier sleep.

This disorder can be diagnosed with the polysomnographic examination. This way is very effective, but it requires you to stay at a hospital or sleep center for the whole night as the examination will last while you are sleeping.

It’s of paramount importance to measure your body and brain activity, as they are the essential sleep factors. It’s important to measure your brain waves, eye movement, muscle activity, heart rhythm and rate, pulse, and the oxygen level in your blood. Let’s take a look at the in-depth examination of each method so that you can be more aware of what it takes to diagnose obstructive sleep apnea.

  1. An electroencephalogram, or simply EEG, is a type of examination that allows measuring brain waves. Electrodes will be attached to your head, and all brain activity will be measured before, during, and after sleep. 
  2. Electrooculogram, or EOG, will monitor your eye movement during sleep. One electrode will be placed below your outer corner of the left eye, and the second one will be placed above the outer corner of the right eye. Thus, all eye movements will be recorded. These two examinations are crucial, as they tell a doctor more information about different sleep phases. 
  3. Electromyogram, or EMG, will measure your muscle activity. Two electrodes will be attached to your chin above and below your jawline, and two more electrodes will be placed on shins. It will allow recording your muscle activity and relaxation during sleep.
  4. Electrocardiogram, or EKG/ECG, is aimed at measuring your heart rhythm and rate. This examination will demonstrate if you have heart problems or high blood pressure. It’s important to determine whether there are some cardiac issues during apnea or no. 
  5. Pulse oximetry test will measure the level of oxygen in the blood, and the level of oxygen decreases during apnea. A small device will be placed on a body area with good blood flow to be more precise. Usually, it’s attached to an earlobe or fingertip.
  6. The last test is Arterial Blood Gas analysis (small amount of blood specimen will be collected) that also allows measuring the level of oxygen, its saturation, as well as the level of carbon dioxide.

What Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea Treatment?

The easiest way to relieve the symptoms is to sleep on your side instead of back, eliminate alcohol, and avoid sleeping pills. However, all forms, especially severe obstructive sleep apnea, have to be treated accordingly.

There are several ways, except for obstructive sleep apnea oral appliance therapy, that are applicable to grant you safer and healthier sleep. Keep in mind that only a doctor can decide which type of treatment will be suitable for you.

Weight Loss

The first step to make while fighting the disorder is to lose weight. Even the slightest changes can make a difference, so it’s important to stick to healthier nutrition and have regular physical activities.

Decongestants for Stuffy Nose

The congested nose is a widespread factor that causes an OSA. Therefore, nasal decongestants and sprays will be very effective and allow reducing snoring.

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure Device

This device is essential in OSA treatment. It is a mask that you should wear during the night. It will help you to receive positive airflow during the night that will allow your airways to stay open. This way of treatment of the disorder is highly effective. Keep in mind that CPAP might also require an additional dental device to keep the lower jaw in the right position.

Oral Device

It is a mandibular advancement device that can help to keep your tongue away from blocking your airways. Thus, they will stay open during sleep, and the OSA syndrome will be alleviated.

Surgery

Several surgery types can be used as an obstructive sleep apnea treatment. These might include the following:

  • Somnoplasty. In this case, radiofrequency energy will be applied to tighten your throat tissue.
  • Nasal surgery. Sometimes, a deviated septum can cause snoring, as well as block your airways. The surgery aims at correcting such obstructions.
  • Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty, or simply UPPP. It is the simple procedure when a surgeon takes out some excessive soft tissue of your throat or palate to make your airways wider. Thus, you can improve your sleep and get rid of the problem.
  • Mandibular or maxillary advancement surgery. A surgeon will move your facial bones, including jaw, a little bit forward to create more space in your throat so that you can breathe more easily. It is a serious surgery that is recommended for people with a severe form of OSA.
  • For people with OSA, surgical removal of enlarged tonsils and adenoids is also recommended.
  • Stimulation of upper airways. A certain device will be surgically installed under your chest skin. One wire will track your breathing activity pattern, and another one will send signals to airway muscle nerves to keep it open. You will have a remote control to turn it on-off before or after sleep.
  • Tracheostomy is the last resort procedure that can be applied if the person can’t breathe at all. In this case, the opening will be created in the windpipe to bypass the throat obstruction.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, obstructive sleep apnea ICD 9 is a serious problem that has to be detected and treated accordingly. Our health is the most important thing, so taking care of ourselves should be our top priority.

In case you suffer from this disease or have a few symptoms of it, you should turn to a doctor right away to treat it. I have provided the most common causes and symptoms so that you can know more about this problem. Once you are more aware of the enemy, you can eliminate it and have a healthier life and sleep.

Make sure to turn for some professional help timely so that you won’t make everything worse and treat the illness effectively. Now I would like to hear from you. Have you ever suffered from this disease? What were your symptoms, and how you have treated them? Was the treatment effective? Leave your comments below.

foto of Catherine Rodgers

I am a certified therapist. The area of my study includes sleep medicine as well. I’ve chosen this field of research not by chance. For years I’ve suffered from insomnia, and have been trying various medicines, including sleeping techniques, natural remedies, and even hypnosis. According to my observations, the quality of sleep depends on numerous external and internal factors that may seem irrelevant at first sight.

Catherine Rodgers

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