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It is estimated that more than 12 million individuals in the United States have sleep apnea, in which breathing stops for short periods during sleep. Most persons with sleep apnea do not even know they have this serious medical problem. Sleep apnea is more than just snoring, although snoring is one of the signs of sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by intermittent closure of the airway. Much less commonly, central sleep apnea can happen when abnormal messages sent from the brain make breathing stop inappropriately. If left undetected and untreated, sleep apnea may cause poor quality of sleep, excessive daytime sleepiness, weight gain, hypertension (high blood pressure), heart failure, stroke, and death. Hypoxemia (decreased oxygen concentration in the blood) and hypercapnia (increased carbon dioxide concentration in the blood) are common in persons who have sleep apnea. Both hypoxemia and hypercapnia are serious problems and can have many ill effects on the organs of the body.
To find this and previous JAMA Patient Pages, go to the Patient Page Index on JAMA's Web site at http://www.jama.com. Many are available in English and Spanish. A Patient Page on insomnia was published in the June 28, 2006, issue; one on obesity was published in the April 9, 2003, issue; and one on bariatric surgery was published in the February 10, 2010, issue.
Sources: American Lung Association; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; American Sleep Apnea Association; American Society of Anesthesiologists; American Academy of Sleep Medicine
The JAMA Patient Page is a public service of JAMA. The information and recommendations appearing on this page are appropriate in most instances, but they are not a substitute for medical diagnosis. For specific information concerning your personal medical condition, JAMA suggests that you consult your physician. This page may be photocopied noncommercially by physicians and other health care professionals to share with patients. To purchase bulk reprints, call 312/464-0776.
TOPIC: RESPIRATORY HEALTH
Torpy JM, Lynm C, Golub RM. Sleep Apnea. JAMA. 2011;305(9):956. doi:10.1001/jama.305.9.956
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