It can be difficult to diagnose even extreme cases of sleep apnea, simply because the symptoms occur when we’re sound asleep. And even if a loved one is at our side, they can be hard to pinpoint.
And mild and moderate cases are even more difficult to pinpoint without a doctor’s visit or testing. This is why millions of Americans who have sleep apnea go undiagnosed and can stay undiagnosed for years at a time.
Considering so many people have mild to moderate sleep apnea and do not get treated for an indefinite period, it can be tempting to assume that the risks aren’t that bad. But this is not exactly the case.
What is Mild Sleep Apnea?
Doctors define sleep apnea as the number of apneas and hypopneas experienced every night.
- Mild – Between 5 and 15 apneas and hypopneas per hour of sleep.
- Moderate – Between 15 and 20 apneas and hypopneas per hour of sleep.
- Severe – More than 30 apneas and hypopneas per hour of sleep.
A recent study was presented at the annual June meeting of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine focused solely on these mild and moderate classifications.
The study found these folks had a greater risk of hypertension and almost three times the risk of developing diabetes than people who had no sleep issues at all.
The study was conducted by the University of Pennsylvania, which looked at 1,741 patients for ten years.
Early Diagnosis is Key
The findings also suggested these associations were at their highest with younger and middle-age adults. The findings also highlighted the importance of early diagnosis to avoid complications down the road.
Listed as a “strong association with metabolic abnormalities,” the study found that ignoring sleep apnea would simply compound the problem over time, eventually leading to a greater risk of developing both of these conditions, and particularly diabetes.
It’s long been recognized that type 2 diabetes and severe sleep apnea were linked. But this was one of the first – and most broad – studies of its kind conducted by a university to determine if this hazard applies to mild cases. And it does.
So What’s the Solution?
Get treated, and get treated early.
There are lots of little signs that something may be amiss in your sleep, and if it’s not clear what’s causing your daytime fatigue or your nighttime snoring, the best bet is to get tested.
Simply put, sleep apnea is dangerous at all levels, but with a diagnosis and proper treatment, (which generally fits in seamlessly with your lifestyle without extra complications), it can be tamed in all stages – mild, moderate, and even severe.
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