What Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)?

The most common type of sleep apnea is known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Due to this condition, the upper airway narrows during sleep, resulting in total or partial restriction of air flow to the lungs. Obstructive sleep apnea it is most commonly caused by collapsing of the tongue and throat during sleep.

Airway obstruction during sleep can be exacerbated by congenital or acquired anatomical defects of the upper respiratory tract, such as nasal deformities, septal deviation, and enlarged tonsils. An important factor in airway obstruction is obesity, causing fat deposition around the neck and in the soft tissues of the throat and pharynx.

Sleep apnea can be defined as the cessation of airflow for at least 10 seconds. However, in many patients, sleep apnea lasts much longer (often exceeding tens of second) and occurs multiple times per hour of sleep.

Major factors contributing to airway obstruction include obesity, structural features, and anatomical defects. This includes hypertrophy of the tonsils, nasal septum deviation, and congenital tendency of the airway to collapse during sleep.

Obstructive sleep apnea, if left untreated, can be life-threatening. Apnea, or cessation of air flow to the lungs, causes a decrease in oxygen levels of the blood. Such a decrease can have a detrimental effect on all organs of the body, especially the heart muscle and brain.

Frequently repeated episodes of apnea during sleep wreak havoc on the natural sleep cycle which can severely affect and even prevent the deepest sleep phase. The deepest stage of sleep is required for the physically restorative effects of sleep and proper activity of the central nervous system during the day (memory, concentration, and mood).

Drożne drogi oddechowe umożliwiają swobodną wymianę powietrza:
Drożne drogi oddechowe:
Collapsing of the upper airway is the main contributing factor of apnea (breathing cessation) and leads to snoring:
Zapadanie się dróg oddechowych:
  1. 1. język
  2. 2. podniebienie miękkie
  3. 3. języczek
  4. 4. nagłośnia

What are the typical symptoms of OSA?

Very few people suffering from OSA are aware of their disease. The diagnosis of OSA is significantly more common among people who are informed about their abnormal signs and symptoms during sleep by their relatives.

The most common symptoms of OSA include:

  • disruptive and loud snoring with observed episodes of breathing cessation during sleep
  • abrupt awakenings accompanied by shortness of breath
  • nightmares and restless sleep
  • gasping/choking while sleeping
  • heavy night sweats
  • decreased libido and impotency
  • excessive nocturia (excessive urination at night)
  • morning headaches
  • awakening with a dry mouth or sore throat
  • involuntarily falling asleep
  • permanent fatigue and excessive daytime sleepiness, chronic apathy
  • irritability, difficulty with concentration, short-term memory loss, forgetfulness
  • depression
  • comorbid diseases: hypertension (the most common) and ischemic heart disease

The prevalence of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is estimated to be 4% in adults.
Many of them remain undiagnosed.
Are you one of them?

What are the consequences of untreated OSA?

Untreated OSA is currently recognized as a serious risk factor for health that can affect the quality of patient life. The results of a number of clinical trials show the relationship between OSA and other major diseases, including chronic conditions. Here you will find some major conditions and risks associated with OSA:

Cardiovascular diseases:

These can result from excessive burden on the heart muscle and myocardial ischemia, both of which occur due to chronic apnea. Sleep apnea can ultimately lead to heart failure and myocardial infarction. Initiation of appropriate therapy significantly reduces the risk of OSA.

Systemic hypertension:

Hypertension is one of the most common coexisting conditions of sleep apnea. Suitable treatment stabilizes blood pressure and reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Cerebrovascular diseases:

OSA is a major risk factor for stroke. Failure to treat sleep apnea is also a major barrier to eliminate complications of stroke and to recover in case the stroke has occurred.

Type II diabetes:

It is caused by the gradual resistance to insulin, which is secreted by the pancreas. According to clinical trials, there is a strong correlation between the OSA and type II diabetes. Proper treatment of sleep apnea improves the control of diabetes.

Cardiac arrhythmias:

Recurrent atrial fibrillation is a disorder that often occurs in patients suffering from undiagnosed and untreated sleep apnea. This is one of the most common complications of sleep apnea. Other types of cardiac arrhythmias include additional heart contractions and heart block. This leads to a very slow heart beat (especially at night). Eventually, this condition requires intervention with the implantation of a pacemaker.

Traffic accidents:

The symptoms caused by untreated sleep apnea, such as distraction and fatigue, can easily result in fatal traffic accidents. The danger of falling asleep behind the wheel is obvious.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)
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