What Is OSA? – Mesa, AZ

Get the Facts
About OSA

According to one estimate from the CDC, about 70 million people in the U.S. suffer from a sleep disorder. Obstructive sleep apnea, abbreviated as OSA, is one of the most common sleep disorders. Despite how common it is, however, many people misunderstand it. On this page, we will share some facts about OSA, what causes it, why it is so dangerous, and how you can tell if you should talk to your doctor about this serious disorder.

OSA vs. CSA

When talking about sleep apnea, most people are exclusively referring to OSA. However, there are actually two distinct types of sleep apnea:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea is characterized by tissues blocking the upper airway during sleep. This leads to repeated pauses in breathing.
  • Central sleep apnea (CSA) is not related to tissues in the upper airway. Instead, it is rooted in the brain. The brain fails to send the proper signals to cause your body to breathe.

A small percentage of people suffer from both OSA and CSA at the same time.

What Causes OSA?

In OSA, pauses in breathing (called apneas) occur when tissues in the back of the throat overrelax and obstruct the free flow of air. There are a number of reasons why this might happen, including:

  • Obesity is a big risk factor for OSA because excess weight, particularly around the neck, puts extra pressure on the muscles at the back of the throat.
  • Smoking irritates the throat tissues and may lead to breathing obstructions.
  • Difficulty breathing through the nose. Whether you have a cold, allergies, or chronic nasal congestion, you may be more prone to breathe through your mouth. Mouth breathing dries out the throat and irritates the tissues in it.
  • Anatomical abnormalities. Issues like a naturally narrow airway, large tonsils, or a deviated septum can all contribute to apneas.

Complications of OSA

Some people reason that OSA is not serious because the pauses in breathing are relatively short in duration. However, OSA is dangerous. It disrupts the sleep cycle, which increases the risk of daytime fatigue. People with OSA are more likely to be in motor vehicle accidents. Moreover, OSA increases the risk of serious health problems like heart attack and stroke. It is also associated with diabetes and difficulty maintaining a healthy weight.

When Is the Right Time to See a Doctor?

Some people are able to correct OSA on their own, perhaps by losing weight or changing their sleeping position. However, you should not rely solely on self-care if you suspect that you have OSA. Symptoms such as loud snoring, frequently waking up with a sore throat, and constantly feeling tired are all major red flags that indicate a visit to a doctor is in order.

Your doctor may recommend that you undergo a sleep test, which will reveal whether you have OSA and how severe the condition is. From there, you can begin to explore your treatment options. Many patients find that an oral sleep appliance from Ocotillo Sleep Solutions is a convenient and effective way to combat OSA. Contact us today if you would like to learn more about OSA and how our team may be able to help you conquer it.