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Don't Ignore The Snoring - Obstructive Sleep Apnea Can Be Life Threatening

In spite of the general misconceptions, obstructive sleep apnea is very much treatable, depending on the severity of the condition. Healthcare providers can recommend suitable line of treatment.

Dont Ignore The Snoring - Obstructive Sleep Apnea Can Be Life Threatening

Indian men are at a greater risk of obstructive sleep apnea than women

Obstructive sleep apnea is a common breathing disorder, easily identifiable with loud snoring.  We have all experienced it some way or the other at our homes, and it has always been a matter of fun and jester. But have you ever wondered that loud snoring can be an indication that something may not be well within your body and in some cases, it can turn out to be fatal!

Obstructive sleep apnea happens when the upper airway gets blocked during sleep which causes the diaphragm and chest muscles to work harder for opening the airway for pulling air into the lungs. Sometimes, a person may stop breathing for a moment and the regain breath with a loud jerk or a gasp.  In most episodes we do not remember the incidence, and in acute cases it may happen multiple times during sleep.

Obesity, inflamed tonsils and even health issues like endocrine disorders or heart failure can cause it and vice versa it can be an indication of underlying chronic illnesses like high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease. Experts have associated the occurrence of sleep apnea with lower life expectancy and studies have shown that it decreases the longevity of the person by several years.


Apart from obvious loud snoring, a person suffering from obstructive sleep apnea may show excessive daytime sleepiness, awakening with a dry mouth or sore throat, Morning headache, difficulty concentrating during the day, mood changes, such as depression or irritability. Often High Blood Pressure is also associated. We may sometime also remember episodes of stopped breathing during sleep or abrupt awakenings accompanied by gasping or choking.  

Indian men are at a greater risk of obstructive sleep apnea than women. According to a research paper, the reported a prevalence of obstructive sleep apnea was 13.7% among adults and 7.5% among urban middle-aged men. Recent studies have also shown that Indians are often sleep-deprived, and obstructive sleep apnea is also on the rise. In Women, there are slight differences in sleep apnea symptoms.  The risks are greater for women, as their symptoms are not as obvious and therefore are late or never diagnosed.  In absolute numbers, it is estimated that about 40 lakh people, particularly the elderly and obese, suffer from obstructive sleep apnea.

Obesity is one of the biggest risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea. Being overweight or obese means that more fat gets deposits around upper airway which can interfere with normal breathing. Studies show that nearly 60-70% of people suffering from obstructive sleep apnea are also obese. The risk of death increases when sleep apnea is left untreated.

In Indian society, snoring is quite acceptable and often ignored, but it is also the earliest indicator of obstructive sleep apnea. According to an estimate, only 2% of people suffering from obstructive sleep apnea have ever consulted a physician. In most cases, obstructive sleep apnea goes undiagnosed and untreated. Hectic schedule, work-related stress, and unhealthy lifestyle makes most people to compromising on sleep, leading to increasing incidences of obstructive sleep apnea.

In spite of the general misconceptions, obstructive sleep apnea is very much treatable, depending on the severity of the condition. Healthcare providers can recommend suitable line of treatment. Also, early identification can help in preventing the condition to deteriorate further. There are simple medications and therapies that can help. Most common treatment method is to use using a simple device to keep positive pressure in your airway. Various other oral appliances are also used to help the person breathe easily. In some severe case, doctor may also suggest surgery as an option.

Although Obstructive sleep apnea is not completely curable, but with treatment and therapies it can be brought in control.  Additionally, reducing weight, regular exercising including breathing exercises will help in the management of the condition.  

(Dr. (Brig) Ashok K Rajput, Chief, Respiratory/ Pulmonology & Sleep Medicine, Artemis Hospitals, Gurgaon)

Disclaimer: This content including advice provides generic information only. It is in no way a substitute for qualified medical opinion. Always consult a specialist or your own doctor for more information. NDTV does not claim responsibility for this information.


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