We were recently contacted by a patient who had been referred to us by a nephrologist. A nephrologist is a kidney specialist, so why would a kidney doctor be recommending that someone get a sleep appliance. The answer is actually simple, and the reason why many of our patients are referred to us by doctors from all around the area, both general practitioners and dozens of different specialists.
Sleep apnea is a condition that can have a dramatic impact on nearly every system in your body, resulting in numerous different health conditions. And in many cases, successful treatment of those conditions depends on controlling sleep apnea. That’s why doctors may recommend oral appliances, a more convenient and comfortable alternative to CPAP treatment.
Diseases Associated with Sleep Apnea
Sleep is the body’s vital restorative. If that sleep is disrupted, many of the body’s systems may be disrupted as well. Here are a few of the conditions that we know are associated with sleep apnea.
Among the most common and serious complications of obstructive sleep apnea are cardiovascular problems. When your breathing stops at night, your heart tries to work harder to make up for the problem. This can lead to many potential heart problems, including:
- High blood pressure
- Heart attack
- Irregular heart rhythms
- Kidney disease
This is also a case where failure to treat sleep apnea has been shown to significantly undermine the effectiveness of treatment. People who don’t get treated for sleep apnea are more likely to end up back in the hospital with a second or third heart attack.
It is generally through elevated blood pressure that sleep apnea results in kidney disease.
Sleep apnea can also put you at greater risk for certain medications. Among these are any type of anesthesia that might be used for surgery. Special care must be taken by anesthesiologists when dealing with sleep apnea sufferers.
When your sleep is disrupted, so is your metabolism. Sleep apnea is associated with many metabolic disorders, including:
- High blood cholesterol (which can also contribute to cardiovascular problems)
- Fatty liver disease
In many cases, we’re not sure whether sleep apnea is a cause or effect of metabolic disorders, though in most cases, it seems that the conditions worsen each other.
Arguably, our brain is the organ that most depends on restorative sleep, so it’s not surprising that sleep apnea is associated with many psychological disorders, such as:
- Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia
- Depression and other mood disorders
- Low motivation
- Reduced sex drive/impotence
- Memory problems
In many cases, people who have been diagnosed with these problems can get relief from their psychological conditions through sleep apnea treatment.
Is Sleep Apnea Underlying Your Health Problems
Sleep apnea is dangerous not only because of the number of health problems it causes or contributes to, but also because it can go undetected for a long time. Your doctor doesn’t see you sleeping and doesn’t know about your sleep problems. In some cases, they might not know the right questions to ask.
If you have any of the health conditions above–especially if it’s not responding to treatment–you should be evaluated for sleep apnea. And make sure you have an effective sleep apnea treatment you can stick with.
If you need help with sleep apnea in Omaha, please call (402) 493-4175 for an appointment with a sleep dentist at the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center.