Sleep apnea is a common condition nowadays, and that’s why a lot of medical practitioners upgrade their skills to become sleep doctors. But a patient does not visit a sleep apnea specialist right away. In most cases, the patient visits the family doctor first and then referred to the specialist. It’s amazing that today, sleep apnea in HIV patients and those with critical conditions is being treated.
Once referred, the sleep apnea specialist must first examine the patient. Aside from the usual physical examination, the provider will also assess the back of the throat, the nose and mouth for any abnormalities such as presence of extra tissues. As part of the assessment, the provider may also measure the waist circumference and neck. Of course, the blood pressure will be taken.
Tests Done by the Specialist
To diagnose the condition and know the right treatment, one or more tests may be implemented. Here are some of those tests.
One of the most common tests to detect sleep apnea, the specialist would hook the patient to an equipment. This device would monitor the patient’s brain activity, lungs, heart, motor movements, blood oxygen level and breathing pattern while asleep.
Tests can be done either in full-night or split-night. Split-night is where the patient is being monitored on the first half of the night. If sleep apnea is detected, the specialist or at least his staff would wake the patient up to apply continuous positive airway pressure or CPA on the second half of the night.
Aside from diagnosing sleep apnea, this test can also help the specialist to rule out other sleeping disorders that trigger excessive sleepiness at daytime.
Home Sleep Apnea Test
Depending on the case, the specialist may also provide a polysomnography machine which can be brought at home. Just like the typical machine, this device also performs the same function.
There are also instances when the sleep apnea specialist may refer you to an ENT doctor. This will rule out any blockages on the throat and nose.
If it’s only a mild case of sleep apnea, changes in lifestyle habits would suffice. Some changes include:
- Weight loss for obese and overweight individuals
- Regular exercise
- Moderate consumption of alcohol
- Quit smoking
- Nasal decongestant or anti-allergic medications
- Avoidance of sleeping pills or other sedatives
If for some instance these simple modifications are not enough to manage your sleep apnea, the specialist would then recommend other treatments such as the use of various devices.
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)
CPAP is a machine that provides air pressure. The air pressure flows through a piece that is inserted to your nose or over your nose and mouth while you’re asleep.
The pressure delivered is continuous and constant to make sure that your airway passage is open and without any blockages. The downside though with this machine is that it can be bothersome to the users due to discomfort upon wearing and loud sound. Thankfully, this downside has been resolved.
Today, smaller and newer CPAP machines are available to make sure that those with sleep apnea can wear it comfortably. This is also the design recommended by sleep apnea specialists.