Sleep Apnea Risk: Going Undiagnosed
Left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea can have serious and life-threatening consequences. In addition, sleep apnea puts patients at risk for other severe conditions.
Chronic daytime sleepiness from sleep apnea results in difficulty concentrating, decreases productivity at home and at work and increases the risk of accidents and errors in daily activities.
In fact, untreated sleep apnea sufferers are six times more likely to be involved in a serious or fatal traffic accident. This can be especially deadly for people whose jobs involve frequent driving: 30% of accidents involving commercial truck drivers are sleep related.
Related Health Conditions
Many people with sleep apnea also suffer with one or more serious health condition that is either aggravated or caused by sleep apnea, such as:
Sleep apnea increases insulin resistance in patients who also suffer from diabetes, making it more difficult to control blood sugar levels. Diabetes is a serious condition that can lead to strokes, heart attacks, blindness, kidney failure, impaired circulation to the legs and poor wound healing.
People suffering with untreated sleep apnea are at twice the risk of having a stroke and five times the risk of having a fatal heart attack.If a person already has high blood pressure, untreated sleep apnea can aggravate that condition, reduce the efficacy of medication, and even lead to abnormal heart rhythms such as atrial fibrillation.
People with untreated sleep apnea often experience hormone fluctuations, increased appetite and an altered metabolism due to poor sleep quality, leading to weight gain and making it challenging to lose weight. Being overweight is also one of the main risk factors for sleep apnea—a discouraging and dangerous cycle.
People with depression are much more likely to have sleep apnea, and may not be able to control their symptoms with antidepressants alone.
Erectile or Sexual Dysfunction
Male sleep apnea sufferers are twice as likely to have ED as people without sleep apnea. Women with untreated sleep apnea are also at greater risk for sexual dysfunction.
Untreated Sleep Apnea is Expensive
Untreated sleep apnea can lead to significant medical expenses. Studies have documented significantly increased hospital costs and physician visits among undiagnosed sleep apnea patients compared to patients without the disease. And sleep apnea patients with related conditions spend more on treatment for those diseases and can even be hospitalized with an emergency brought on by their sleep apnea.