Sleep Apnea Complications

Sleep Apnea leads to a number of complications, from daytime sleepiness to a possible increased risk of death. Sleep Apnea is strongly associated with several diseases, especially those relating to the heart and circulatory system.

Cardiovascular Problems - An increase in blood pressure may occur due to sudden drops in ones blood oxygen levels because of sleep apnea which in turn puts strain on the cardiovascular system. The severity of one's sleep apnea leads to a higher risk of hypertension (high blood pressure). Obstructive sleep apnea leads to a higher risk of stroke regardless of how high or how low one's blood pressure is. Studies also show that obstructive sleep apnea is associated with other vascular diseases such as an increased risk of atrial fibrillation or congestive heart failure. If there is underlying heart disease, these episodes of low blood oxygen levels (hypoxia or hypoxemia) can lead to sudden death from a cardiac event. Central sleep apnea, however, usually is the result and not the cause, of heart disease.

Daytime Fatigue - Repeated awakenings during the night, associated with sleep apnea make normal, restorative sleep impossible. Those with sleep apnea often experience severe daytime drowsiness, fatigue and mood swings. One may have difficulty concentrating and find yourself dozing at work, while watching TV or even when driving. Those who suffer from sleep apnea may also feel irritable, moody or depressed, during the daytime. Children and adolescents with sleep apnea may do poorly in school or have behavioral problems.

Complications With Medications & With Surgeries - Obstructive sleep apnea is also a concern with general anesthesia and other medications. People with sleep apnea may be more likely to experience complications following major surgery because they're prone to breathing problems, especially when sedated and lying on their backs. Before you have surgery, tell your doctor that you suffer with sleep apnea and tell the doctor how it is being treated. Undiagnosed sleep apnea is especially risky in this situation.

Psychological Effects - Studies have shown an association between severe sleep apnea and psychological problems. Risk factors for depression rise with the increasing severity of one's sleep apnea. Sleep-related breathing disorders can also increase the severity of nightmares, as well as worsen post-traumatic stress disorder.

Sleep Apnea is also associated with a higher incidence of other medical conditions, not related to the heart or the circulatory system. The link between sleep apnea and these other medical conditions are unclear.

Diabetes - Severe obstructive sleep apnea, is associated with Type 2 Diabetes.

Obesity - When making a connection between sleep apnea and obesity, it is not always clear which condition is responsible for the other. For example, obesity is often a risk factor and possibly a cause of sleep apnea, yet, it is also likely that sleep apnea increases the risk for obesity.

Asthma - Sleep apnea may worsen asthma which can limit the effectiveness of asthma medications. However, treating sleep apnea may help control control asthma.

Seizures - There may also be an association between seizures and obstructive sleep apnea, especially in older adults. Studies have shown that the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea, when present, may help in the control of refractory seizures.

Headaches - Sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, may be the underlying cause of some chronic headaches. In patients with both chronic headaches and sleep apnea, treating the sleep disorder has cured the headache. This is including, but not limited to, the very severe and disabling form known as cluster headaches.

High-Risk Pregnancies - Sleep apnea causes higher rates of pregnancy complications, including a higher incidence of gestational diabetes and high blood pressure.