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Sleep apnea
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Sleep apnea

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BRAIN & NERVOUS SYSTEM

Sleep

Complications

Sleep apnea is considered a serious medical condition. Complications may include:

  • Cardiovascular problems. Sudden drops in blood oxygen levels that occur during sleep apnea increase blood pressure and strain the cardiovascular system. Almost half of all people with sleep apnea develop high blood pressure (hypertension), which raises the risk of heart failure and stroke. If there's underlying heart disease, these repeated multiple episodes of low blood oxygen (hypoxia or hypoxemia) can lead to sudden death from a cardiac event. The more severe the obstructive sleep apnea, the greater the risk for high blood pressure. In contrast, central sleep apnea usually is the result, rather than the cause, of heart disease.

  • Daytime fatigue. The repeated awakenings associated with sleep apnea make normal, restorative sleep impossible. People with sleep apnea often experience severe daytime drowsiness, fatigue and irritability. They may have difficulty concentrating and find themselves falling asleep at work, while watching TV or even when driving. People with obstructive sleep apnea are three to five times more likely to have car accidents. Children and young people with sleep apnea often do poorly in school.

  • Complications with medications and surgery. Obstructive sleep apnea also is a concern with certain medications and general anesthesia. People with sleep apnea may be more likely to experience complications following major surgery because they're prone to breathing problems, especially when sedated and lying on their backs. Before you have surgery, inform your doctor that you have sleep apnea. Undiagnosed sleep apnea is especially risky in this situation.

  • Sleep-deprived partners. If snoring accompanies sleep apnea, a loud snore can exceed 100 decibels. This can keep those around you from getting good rest and disrupt your relationships. It's not uncommon for a bed partner to sleep in another room, or even on another floor of the house, to be able to sleep. Many bed partners of people who snore are sleep deprived as well.

People with obstructive and central sleep apnea may also complain of memory problems, feelings of depression, a need to urinate frequently at night (nocturia) and impotence. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) may be more prevalent in people with sleep apnea. Children with untreated sleep apnea may be hyperactive and may be diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Sleep apnea > 1 > 2 > 3 > 4

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This information is provided for general medical education purposes only and is not meant to substitute for the independent medical judgment of a physician relative to diagnostic and treatment options of a specific patient's medical condition.
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Last Modified : 03/15/08 02:16 AM