Sleep apnea is a condition where an individual stops breathing at night: this can last for a few seconds or a few minutes. Around 18 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, however it is suggested that two to four percent of Americans suffer from an undiagnosed case of sleep apnea; this accounts for nearly one out of every 50 people. If you suspect that you or a loved one may have difficulty breathing at night, talk to your doctor about treatment options.
How Dangerous is Sleep Apnea?
There are numerous health risks associated with sleep apnea if left undiagnosed. The risk of stroke is up to four times more likely for those who are not receiving treatment; untreated suffers are also three times more likely to develop heart disease than those without the condition. High blood pressure, arrhythmia, and similar cardiovascular diseases are linked to sleep apnea due to a shortage of oxygen being introduced into the blood stream — the National Commission on Sleep Disorders Research estimates that there are nearly 38,000 deaths annually that caused by sleep apnea-related cardiovascular problems. Of course, the immediate danger of sleep apnea occurs when a person stops breathing for a period of time. Suffers of obstructive sleep apnea could experience up to 60 apneas per hour; thankfully the brain typically sends a signal to resume breathing once oxygen levels drop too low.
Non-Invasive Treatment Options for Sleep Apnea
A continuous positive airway pressure machine (CPAP machine) is a non-invasive treatment option for suffers of sleep apnea. The CPAP machine introduces continuous airflow into the patient’s throat to keep the airways free from obstructions at night — this is done through nasal or full face CPAP masks. A bi-level positive airway pressure machine (BIPAP machine), functions like a CPAP machine except it allows the patient to adjust the pressure of airflow. Some CPAP patients have difficulty exhaling due to the continuous pressure, BIPAP machines remedy this by matching the patient’s inhales and exhales through constantly adjusting levels of pressure. Up to 80% of sleep apnea patients put themselves at risk by not using their CPAP machine due to discomfort: BIPAP machines help to minimize discomfort while offering the same level of treatment offered by CPAP machines.