Ask me today – advice from a real GP
The Causes of Sleep Apnea
Many persons who suffer from poor quality rest at night suffer from Sleep Apnea, a condition in which breathing is disrupted during sleep… but very few recognise this. They may for instance, find that their sleep is often disturbed but are unable to put a finger on the cause for the disruption. When Sleep Apnea, also known as Obstructive Sleep Apnea, becomes a suspected cause of their rest problems, those facing the diagnosis often wonder what factors may have led to the problem.
The Causes… In a Nutshell
There are a number of things that can cause Sleep Apnea. Some of them are related to the structure of the body or genealogy while others are associated with other medical conditions.
The Gender Factor
Being masculine, for instance increases your likelihood of developing the condition. This does not mean that women are in the clear though as some Sleep Apnea patients are women. Excess weight is another risk factor and so is having a thick neck.
An Age Related Condition
As with many other ailments, your chances of experiencing Sleep Apnea increases as you get older with individuals over forty years old being more likely to have the ailment than those who are younger. Despite the fact that the condition is popular among older persons though, there are cases of young people and even babies who have Sleep Apnea.
A Spinoff from Other Ailments
Medical conditions such as GERD or Gastroesophageal Reflux can cause the development of Sleep Apnea. Scientists are still not exactly sure about the details of the relationships but studies do indicate that persons who have GERD are often also diagnosed with Sleep Apnea. The result of one such study was published in the March 2014 issue of the Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility. Like many others, this study revealed that subjects who suffered from GERD also had Sleep Apnea. Medical research into the issue is ongoing.
Sometimes the condition is triggered by structural issues in the oral cavity or throat area: larger than normal tonsils, for instance, or a deviated septum, may affect breathing during sleep. Tonsils that are too large will cause an obstruction to breathing especially during sleep. Many cases of childhood sleep apnea is related to swollen or enlarged tonsils and in these cases a Tonsillectomy may be recommended.
A deviated septum is a misalignment of the septum (the bone and cartilage structure that separates the nasal cavity into two nostrils). While this misalignment is very common, it is a slight one for most people. For a few, however, the misalignment is severe enough to cause breathing problems. A deviated septum may be something that you are born with but sometimes traumatic events such as a broken nose can cause it.
It is good to educate yourself about the ailment that you might have but self-diagnosis is never recommended. If, after reading about the causes here, you think you might have the ailment, your next course of action should be to consult a health care expert. Only your medical doctor can make a medical diagnosis. Of course, with the right medical attention, Obstructive Sleep Apnea can be managed and often cured. Speak with an expert today about the options available to you.
Dr Helen Webberley
MBChB MRCGP MFSRH
I am an NHS GP and I also run an online medical service offering advice, prescriptions, tests and referrals.