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Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) affects millions of Americans and is estimated to be as prevalent as asthma and diabetes. Given the fact that obesity is a major risk factor for OSA, and given the current global rise in obesity, the prevalence of OSA will increase in the future. Individuals with sleep apnea are often unaware of their sleep disorder. It is usually first recognized as a problem by family members who witness the apneic episodes or is suspected by their primary care doctor because of the individual’s risk factors and symptoms. The vast majority remain undiagnosed and untreated, despite the fact that this serious disorder can have significant consequences. Individuals with untreated OSA can stop breathing hundreds of times a night during their sleep. These apneic events can lead to fragmented sleep that is of poor quality, as the brain arouses briefly in order for the body to resume breathing. Untreated, sleep apnea can have dire health consequences and can increase the risk of hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, and heart failure. OSA management has also become important in a number of comorbid neurological conditions, including epilepsy, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and headache. Diagnosis typically involves use of screening questionnaires, physical exam, and an overnight polysomnography or a portable home study. Treatment options include changes in lifestyle, positive airway pressure, surgery, and dental appliances.
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