Sleep apnea can run the gamut in severity. Some patients can have very mild sleep apnea, whereas others have obstructive sleep apnea that is extremely damaging to their health. In fact, in cases where obstructive sleep apnea goes untreated for a length of time, some very serious and life threatening side effects can occur.
The most serious are:
- High blood pressure: This symptom is so prevalent in sleep apnea patients that almost one-half of all patients diagnosed with sleep apnea are also hypertensive. When you sleep, your body goes through several cycles of rest and repair, but with patients who have sleep apnea, the cycles are interrupted, off rhythm, and shorter leaving the heart little to no time to repair. The end result is high blood pressure
- Stroke: Because high blood pressure is very common in patients with sleep apnea, it stands to reason that stroke would be very common as well. In fact, up to 80% of all stroke patients also have obstructive sleep apnea
- Arrhythmia: In patients with obstructive sleep apnea, stroke and heart damage are the most common causes of sudden death. These typically will happen while the patient is sleeping, and as a direct result of his or her untreated obstructive sleep apnea.
- Congestive Heart Failure: Your heart is a muscle, and if the muscle is too weak to fill up with blood or cannot pump enough blood to all of the parts of your body, then your system begins to shut down.
- Low blood oxygen: A normal blood oxygen level should be 98%. But, for patients with sleep apnea, their blood oxygen levels plummet into the 70s because they will stop breathing during their sleep for 30 seconds or more. Our bodies need oxygen to survive, and not having enough oxygen in your blood can lead to a whole host of very serious conditions including brain damage.
For patients with obstructive sleep apnea, who have eleven events per hour or more, the risk of having a serious and life threatening cardiovascular problem is 42% higher than those patients without obstructive sleep apnea. This condition is very serious, but it can be treated. If you think you might have obstructive sleep apnea, talk to your doctor about your symptoms and what can be done to diagnose it.