Obstructive sleep Apnea (OSA) is a condition which makes intermittent pauses in your breathing while you are      asleep, affecting your day time activity as well as increasing the risk of many other diseases. Approximately 15 percent males and 5 percent females suffer from this disease. Many people with OSA are not aware about the fact that they stop breathing when they are asleep. They get to know this only when they are snoring during their sleep.The main symptoms of OSA are snoring, fatigue, and daytime sleepiness.However, not all people have these classical symptoms. They can have frequent awakenings, choking or gasping while sleeping, morning headaches, dry mouth, fatigue or grogginess during the daytime, poor memory and lack of concentration which affect their quality of life and work performance.

Most of these symptoms, attributed to overwork and increasing age, are ignored putting them at risk for car accidents and other types of mishappenings during activities that require vigilance. Moreover, these people are more likely to have high blood pressure, heart attacks, depression, stroke and diabetes. The strongest risk factor for OSA is obesity and chances of OSA progressively increases with increasing obesity. Other important risk factors are advancing age, craniofacial abnormalities, smoking, menopause, and family history. This condition is also seen in children with adenotonsillar enlargement and can affect their growth and school performance.

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The diagnosis of sleep apnea is confirmed by overnight sleep study which is usually done in dedicated labs but can be done at home with selected patients. The most effective treatment for sleep apnea is a device that keeps you airway open while you sleep called continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). There are another devices that you wear in your mouth called oral appliance or mandibular advancement device but are less effective. In rare cases surgery is required.

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The article is contributed by Dr. Rahul K. Sharma, MD, DNB (Medicine), DM (Pulmonary&Critical area) at Metro Hospital & Heart Institute, Noida

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