Obstructive Sleep Apnea: What Is It And How Can A Respiratory Therapist Help You?

If your primary doctor diagnoses you with obstructive sleep apnea, you may wonder if there's anything you can do to improve your condition. Sleep apnea is a debilitating respiratory condition that interferes with your ability to breathe normally when you sleep. One of the things you can do is ask your primary doctor for a referral to see a respiratory therapist. A respiratory therapist is a qualified medical professional who diagnoses and treats breathing ailments that interfere with your ability to maintain a functional and healthy lifestyle. Here's what obstructive sleep apnea is and how a respiratory therapist helps you.

What's Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

This disorder develops when the tissues in your throat overly relax, collapse and block the flow of air through your upper respiratory system. It's the most common type of sleep apnea diagnosed in adults. The condition develops in people who have:

  • Excess fat around or on their necks
  • Narrow throats
  • Abnormally-shaped or placed tissues that restrict airflow through the throat and nose, such as a misshapen soft palate, hard palate, swollen tonsils or tongue

Because the issues above block the flow of air into your body, you may snore in your sleep. Snoring occurs when air attempts to pass through the restricted tissues in your upper respiratory system. Your bouts of snoring can be loud enough to wake and keep up other people at night. In many cases, you won't even know that you snore until someone tells you about it. 

Can Obstructive Sleep Apnea Be Dangerous?

One of the biggest issues with obstructive sleep apnea is its ability to make you stop and start breathing for various periods of time throughout the night. The cycle of stopping and restarting breathing may affect your body's major organs including your heart, which requires oxygen to make new cells, fight off disease and push blood through your body. Sleep apnea may increase your risks factors for heart disease and stroke. 

In addition to the issues above, obstructive sleep apnea creates many problems that may affect you in the daytime, including how you drive. One of the most dangerous symptoms or side effects of sleep apnea is drowsiness and sleepiness. If you fall asleep while operating heavy equipment or driving a vehicle on the road, you can cause a life-threatening accident for you and other people.

Because sleep apnea can cause so many issues, it's important that you see a respiratory therapist who can help you overcome it.

How Can a Respiratory Therapist Help You?

Before a respiratory therapist can offer treatment for your obstructive sleep apnea, they must confirm that you have the condition through various specialized tests. Testing methods, such as polysomnography and portable monitoring, record your sleep patterns at night in a controlled clinical setting or in the comfort of your home. The tests help a respiratory therapist figure out when you experience the most breathing problems and cater your treatment around those times to help you sleep better at night.

In addition to the methods mentioned above, a respiratory specialist may choose to test the oxygen levels in your blood. Your red blood cells carry oxygen to different tissues in the body. If you have sleep apnea, your blood cells will show low levels of oxygen in them.

Once a respiratory therapist diagnoses you for obstructive sleep apnea, they may offer a number of treatments that include:

  • Nasal decongestants to open up your airways at night
  • Exercise and diet plans to bring your weight under control
  • CPAP treatment, which is a machine that administers a continuous supply of fresh oxygen to your lungs
  • Respiratory home care services to assist you with taking your medications or using your CPAP treatments correctly

A respiratory therapist will discuss your possible treatments in greater detail when you contact them.

For more information about obstructive sleep apnea, contact a respiratory specialist today or visit websites like http://cornermedical.com/.