Sleep Apnea is a sleep disorder that obstructs or restricts a patient’s airways. The American Medical Association reports that 30 million US citizens suffer from sleep apnea, although the exact figure is likely to be higher. Limited understanding of the condition, challenges in screening and diagnosis, and access to essential sleep studies can lead to many people living undiagnosed. Knowing how to diagnose sleep apnea is crucial for ensuring early treatment and better patient outcomes.
We caught up with the Sleep Matters Team to share common misconceptions in the sleep apnea diagnosis process. They emphasized the importance of awareness on how to diagnose sleep apnea and to seek guidance from professionals in the field.
Exploring The History of Sleep Apnea
Myth: Sleep Apnea is a ‘New’ Medical Condition
Although sleep apnea was not officially recognized as a medical disorder until 1965, records indicate the symptoms were documented nearly 2,000 years ago when it was known instead as ‘Pickwickian Syndrome.’ Fortunately, medical science has advanced in the modern day, enabling patients to access care to improve their health and sleep, which starts with a formal diagnosis.
Why is a Diagnosis of Sleep Apnea Important?
Myth: I Know I Have Sleep Apnea Based on Symptoms, I Don’t Need A Formal Diagnosis
As much as we encourage all our patients and those living with the condition to show awareness of the signs and symptoms common with apnea, it is impossible to provide a reliable diagnostic through this alone. There are many different considerations used to confirm that a patient is presenting with apnea, from sleep screening tools, assessment of medical history, and physical examinations to sleep studies. The only way to have a definitive, formal diagnosis of apnea is through a medically approved sleep test, either in a controlled setting such as a hospital (polysomnography) or at home using a home-testing device (HST).
Who Diagnoses Sleep Apnea?
Myth: Only A Hospital Can Diagnose Sleep Apnea
Sleep Apnea can be diagnosed by a range of healthcare professionals working in many different settings, such as hospitals, medical centers, and sleep clinics. Healthcare providers who can diagnose sleep apnea include:
Sleep Medicine Specialists – doctors who have gained specialist training and expertise in sleep disorders. They often work in clinics or hospitals.
Pulmonologists – who use their professional and clinical knowledge of the lungs and respiratory system to provide sleep studies or determine if the care of a sleep center is required.
Otolaryngologists – who support patients if the apnea disorder is directly related to anatomical issues in the upper airway. Patients who are suffering from enlarged tonsils or deviated septum may seek help from an otolaryngologist.
Dentists – such as Sleep Matters LLC, offer services in dental sleep medicine. We can additionally provide alternative treatments and therapies, like dental appliances, that can help to reduce apnea episodes by managing the obstructions in the airways that restrict breathing during sleep. And while dental sleep medicine practitioners provide services and treatments for sleep apnea, they are not licensed to diagnose obstructive sleep apnea.
Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants – although they are not able to formally confirm a diagnosis of sleep apnea, they may have an involvement in the diagnosis process.
Meet Dr. Silver At Sleep Matters LLC
Here at our Independence-based clinic, Dr. Randal Silver provides treatment and diagnostic services (we partner with vendors where patients can meet with a board certified sleep physician for diagnostic needs) for sleep apnea and snoring issues using a range of alternative and holistic therapies. One of the crucial services offered is understanding how to diagnose sleep apnea, ensuring patients receive the correct treatment. After completing over 400 hours of education in dental sleep medicine, he has achieved diplomate status with the American Sleep and Breathing Academy and is enrolled in further Diplomate programs with the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine. He is also a proud member of the International Academy of Sleep.
With over 20 years of experience in academic and professional practice in sleep-disordered breathing and dentistry, Dr. Randal continues his work with the Sleep Matters Team. This team is committed to shedding light on common misconceptions and emphasizing the importance of knowing how to diagnose sleep apnea, ensuring patients’ health and well-being.
Our Checklist Before Your Sleep Study
Myth: Apnea Is Only Suspected In Overweight Patients or Those Who Snore
At Sleep Matters LLC, we use a range of screening methods and diagnostic tools to confirm if a sleep study is required, ruling out a potential case of apnea sleep. Patients will initially come to us following the results of our online sleep screener, which determines the likelihood of a sleep disorder. Apnea testimonials from our past patients have shown the effectiveness of our screening and treatment methods. A consultation is advisable at this stage to review sleep history in more detail, arrange a physical examination, and discuss the overall health of the patients. This part of the diagnostic process, as well as reviewing our patient forms, ensures those who do not present common risks of apnea, such as obesity or snoring, can voice their concerns and help us to spot signs that are often missed in the diagnosis process. Our apnea overview provides an extensive look into the causes, symptoms, and treatments available for sleep disorders. It’s worth noting that untreated sleep disorders can lead to various health complications over time.
What We Cover In Initial Consultations and Examination
Patients can often feel overwhelmed when taking their first steps toward medical assessments. Feeling prepared for what we’ll cover with you in the appointment can help ease nerves and give our team the best insight into your current health. Here are some of the items our team will cover during the initial consultation:
- (BMI) Body Mass Index – Weight and Height calculation used to confirm body mass.
- Blood pressure
- Measuring neck circumference, jaw size, and positioning
- Checking airways, including nose, and inside of your mouth for potential obstructions
Medical and Lifestyle Questionnaire
- Quality and length of your sleep
- Current symptoms and how they affect your day-to-day life, including work, personal relationships and hobbies
- Sleep patterns and how work shifts, social life, and bedtime routine may affect this
- Reported symptoms from witnesses (partners, roommates)
- Medical background and family history
- Any medications, health conditions, and surgeries.
Introducing Our Sleep Apnea Home-Testing Device
Myth: You Can Only Perform A Sleep Study Overnight In Hospital
There are very specific cases where a patient can only undergo a sleep study in a hospital, often due to other medical concerns or if they are suspected to have Central or Complex Sleep Apnea. For many patients who suffer from Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), a home sleep test is usually a convenient option for confirming their diagnosis. More than 40% of recorded apnea diagnoses are now performed through home testing devices, as many patients prefer the privacy of testing at home, away from wired equipment and medical surveillance.
What Data is Recorded in Home Sleep Tests?
A device, worn similarly to a watch or fitness monitor, is fitted to a patient’s wrist sending data via cloud-based technology for analysis. Our Sleep Testing Device, WatchPat, collects data on a person’s heart rate, oximetry, actigraphy, body position, snoring episodes, and chest movements. The results recorded in this study can highlight signs and symptoms common with obstructive sleep apnea.
Discover The WatchPat Home Testing Device Offered at Sleep Matters LLC
Next Steps After Your Sleep Study
Myth: If I Get Diagnosed With Sleep Apnea, I’ll Have To Wear A CPAP
After we have collected all the necessary data from the sleep study, a consultation will be arranged with the patient to confirm an apnea diagnosis and discuss how to diagnose sleep apnea in further detail, ensuring a comprehensive understanding. We offer a range of alternative therapies and holistic treatments at Sleep Matters LLC, with a professional interest in manageable apnea treatments away from the restrictive Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. Although CPAPs can be an effective treatment for sleep apnea, they can also cause significant discomfort for some patients. We have heard many complaints concerning irritation caused by the mask, acne breakouts, and dry mouth from our patients who have used one. Besides treatment discussions, understanding how to diagnose sleep apnea correctly is paramount to offer the best care. Patients can also be at risk of infections if the mask piece is not cleaned properly.
Oral Appliance Device Therapy
Sleep Matter’s custom-fit dental appliances are a popular choice amongst our patients, offering a portable, comfortable, and discreet treatment solution. These devices are designed specifically for a patient’s mouth, providing optimum comfort and relief in reducing apnea symptoms. The appliance is worn like a standard dental retainer, encouraging airways to stay open during sleep and holding the tongue and jaw in place to reduce apnea episodes.
How Do I Get Diagnosed With Sleep Apnea?
Myth: There is No Cure For Sleep Apnea, So There Is No Reason To Get Help!
Managing any medical condition can vastly improve a patient’s symptoms and, therefore, increase their quality of life. We recommend anyone presenting with signs of sleep apnea, no matter how mild they may be, to seek guidance from health professionals for the first steps towards a diagnosis. Sleep apnea tests are crucial in determining the severity and type of this condition. This is why at Sleep Matters, we’re dedicated to offering professional and high-quality sleep apnea screening and treatments from our Independence clinic for the community, ensuring we’re providing sleep solutions to those who have struggled to find answers to their medical concerns. Once you have received a confirmed diagnosis, tests to determine the best course of action are then recommended. We will also look into the apnea ahi, which is an important metric in assessing and treating the disorder. With the right approach, we can then explore a range of patient-focused treatment plans to help you manage your condition, working towards a better quality of life and sleep!
Contact Sleep Matters To Start Your Sleep Apnea Diagnosis
If you’re concerned that you may have apnea symptoms, use our complimentary screening process to access convenient apnea testing. Make an appointment today using our online booking form.