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Tue, Oct. 15

Sleep apnea affects millions, has potential to kill

KINGMAN ­ Sleep apnea may affect 20 million Americans and it holds the potential to kill.

Bob Walton, branch manager for Breathing Disorders Services in Kingman, added that it is estimated some 90 million Americans snore.

"People need to talk to their doctors if they think they have sleep apnea," Walton said.

The advice comes in the wake of a story appearing Aug. 2 in The Tennessean newspaper that was written by Jim Wyatt.

Titans defensive end Antwan Odom underwent surgery to correct his sleep apnea problem after being shaken by the death last Dec. 26 of National Football League great Reggie White. Sleep apnea and sarcoidosis, a condition that affects how much air the lungs can hold, were believed to be factors contributing to White's death in North Carolina.

Odom was further shaken two weeks ago when his sister, Mellissa, died from complications of sleep apnea.

Central sleep apnea is often association with congestive heart failure and differs from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which is much more common, said Dr. Robert Matheny, a Kingman pulmonologist.

Information supplied by BDS stated that during sleep the soft palate, uvula or both relax as a person inhales, causing vibration on the back of the throat and reducing the size of the breathing passage. This leads to snoring, which affects 32 percent of adults 55-84 years of age, according to a 2003 National Sleep Foundation poll.

OSA occurs when the muscles in the upper airway temporarily collapse, blocking airflow to the lungs and reducing oxygen levels to all body organs. Some people stop breathing several times per night for 10 seconds or more before the brain realizes what is happening and awakens the individual.

"There are a myriad of symptoms associated with sleep apnea," Matheny said. "Loud snoring or your bed partner witnessing a stoppage of breathing are obvious ones.

"But there also may be a tie-in with depression, obesity, heart attacks, hypertension, strokes, sexual dysfunction, diabetes, and increased nighttime urination."

Matheny said surgery for sleep apnea is effective only 40-50 percent of the time and is painful. He advocates using a continuous positive airway pressure (C-PAP) machine, as it is almost 100 percent effective.

BDS is a supplier of C-PAP machines. Many insurance companies cover 80 percent of its cost, and some pay 100 percent, depending on the circumstances, Walton said.

Sleep disorders interfere with work, driving and social activities. They also are responsible for an estimated $16 billion in medical costs annually, according to the National Institutes of Health.

The NIH also states that snoring causes one's bed partner to lose about 49 minutes of sleep per night, amounting to 300 hours per year.

Studies also suggest sleep apnea and snoring increase the risk for high blood pressure, stroke and CHF. The percentage of patients who had cardiovascular complications related to sleep disordered breathing were 80 percent for uncontrolled high blood pressure, 60 percent for stroke, 50 percent for CHF, 45 percent for high blood pressure, and 30 percent for coronary artery disease.

"Behavioral signs such as the inability to perform tasks or concentrate, and short-term memory loss are attributed to sleep apnea," Matheny said.

A C-PAP machine takes room air and pumps it through a mask or pillow fitting on the nose so that it acts like a "splint" to hold the user's airways open during sleep, Walton said. A heated humidifier is often used in conjunction to keep nasal passageways from drying out. The machine regulates the amount of pressure from 4-20 centimeters as prescribed by a doctor, he said.

"The primary care community is much more aware of sleep apnea now," Matheny said. "But it behooves the patient to mention it to his or her doctor.

"By asking if their symptoms could be related to sleep apnea, the patient is clueing in the doctor to a possible problem."

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