Is Sleep Apnea Dangerous?


Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that affects more than 18 million Americans. But many people don’t realize they have sleep apnea until someone they live with complains about the loud snoring or strange breathing they have while they sleep. 

Unfortunately, untreated sleep apnea can be dangerous to your health. The good news is our providers at Prima Medicine, with locations in Fairfax and South Riding, Virginia, can help. Our doctors and nurse practitioners are experts in diagnosing and treating different forms of sleep apnea.

In this blog, they explain the different kinds of sleep apnea, the harm they can cause, and how they can be treated.

Types of sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is a condition in which you stop breathing for brief periods while you sleep. Your body then wakes up briefly — which you likely aren’t aware of — to kick-start your breathing again. This can happen many times throughout the night. There are three types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, and mixed sleep apnea.

Obstructive sleep apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form of sleep apnea. With this type, the muscles in the throat relax too much, blocking the airway.  

Central sleep apnea

Central sleep apnea occurs because the brain doesn’t send the right breathing signals to the throat muscles.

Mixed sleep apnea

Mixed sleep apnea is a condition in which the person suffers from both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. This condition is pretty rare.

Symptoms of sleep apnea

It can be difficult to know if you have sleep apnea, since it occurs while you sleep. However, try to be on the lookout for the following symptoms, and if you live with someone, ask them to be on the lookout, too. 

  • Snoring or “loud” sleeping
  • Drowsiness or fatigue during the day
  • Waking up with a headache
  • Struggling to maintain a healthy weight
  • Chronic dry mouth 
  • Chronic sore throat
  • Trouble concentrating or with memory

If you experience any of these symptoms, be sure to schedule an appointment with Prima Medicine as soon as possible.

Dangers of sleep apnea

If sleep apnea isn’t treated, the brain and body can’t get the oxygen they need to function optimally. And because sleep apnea is a chronic disorder, this lack of oxygen happens night after night, and the effects build. 

This habitual lack of oxygen can be dangerous to your health and cause complications, some of which can become chronic medical disorders themselves. Complications that can develop due to sleep apnea include the following:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Stroke
  • Heart attacks
  • Shortened lifespan

Sleep apnea can also cause mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety.

Treating sleep apnea

The team at Prima Medicine begins by assessing your medical history and evaluating your sleep to arrive at an accurate diagnosis. Then they create a customized sleep apnea treatment plan.

One of the most effective ways to treat the different types of sleep apnea is with a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. CPAP therapy keeps your airway open while you sleep, so you can breathe normally. 

Other things that can help combat sleep apnea include the following:

  • Using a dental device to help keep your airway open
  • Losing weight
  • Quitting smoking
  • Changing your sleeping position
  • Avoiding alcohol

If you have sleep apnea or have the symptoms of this sleep disorder, we can help. To learn more, book an appointment online or over the phone with Prima Medicine today.

Schedule a Consultation

* All indicated fields must be completed. Please include non-medical questions and correspondence only.
By entering your phone number, you agree to receive text messages according to our terms of use and privacy policy.

Accessibility Toolbar