Tue, Nov 14, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Untreated sleep apnea poses safety risks, doctor says

By Chen Chien-chih and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Sleep apnea, if untreated, might lead to chronic fatigue and increases the risks of driving, operating heavy machinery or working in high-risk occupations, doctor Chou Chih-ho (周志和) said on Monday last week.

The most common cause of sleep apnea is an abnormally narrow upper respiratory tract that becomes constricted when muscles relax during sleep, said Chou, a doctor of thoracic medicine at Ever An Hospital in Taichung.

In severe cases, sleep apnea might result in long-term oxygen deficiency, he said, adding that people with obesity, short necks or respiratory allergies are more likely to have the condition.

The most noticeable symptom of sleep apnea is loud snoring, Chou said, adding that family members might notice a person who has the condition breathing as if they are short-winded, in addition to a predilection to sleep during the day.

The condition could result in fatigue during the day and affect work efficiency, which could be dangerous for people in high-risk occupations, he said.

A patient had refused to wear a rebreather while sleeping, despite his doctor’s nearly year-long recommendations, Chou said.

The patient fell asleep behind the wheel while exiting a freeway and rear-ended the car in front of him, which scared him into heeding his recommendations, Chou said.

People with sleep apnea symptoms should undergo medical tests, as a wide range of treatment is available to mitigate the condition, he said.

A simple set of dental braces is enough to treat people with light sleep apnea, while those with medium to severe sleep apnea could wear a breather during sleep to mitigate its effects, he said.

Sleep apnea caused by an enlarged uvula, soft palate or tongue requires surgery, Chou said.

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