15/02/2024 - 18:32

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Obstructive Sleep Apnea


Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a prevalent and potentially serious sleep disorder that often goes unnoticed until its symptoms manifest or complications arise. This review aims to provide a comprehensive overview of OSA, including its definition, prevalence, risk factors, symptoms, diagnosis, and available treatment options.

Definition and Pathophysiology

Obstructive Sleep Apnea is characterized by recurrent episodes of complete or partial upper airway obstruction during sleep, leading to disrupted breathing patterns and oxygen desaturation. The obstruction typically results from the relaxation and collapse of the throat muscles, tongue, and soft palate. The ensuing pauses in breathing, known as apneas, can last for seconds to minutes, disrupting the normal sleep cycle.

Prevalence and Risk Factors

OSA is a widespread condition, affecting people of all ages, though it is more common in middle-aged and older individuals. Prevalence varies based on factors such as age, gender, and body mass index (BMI). Men are generally at a higher risk than women, and obesity is a significant contributing factor. Other risk factors include a family history of OSA, smoking, alcohol consumption, and certain anatomical features like a small upper airway or a recessed jaw.


The hallmark symptoms of OSA include loud snoring, witnessed breathing pauses during sleep, excessive daytime sleepiness, difficulty concentrating, and morning headaches. However, not everyone with OSA experiences these symptoms, making the disorder challenging to identify without proper evaluation.


Polysomnography (PSG) is the gold standard for diagnosing OSA. During PSG, various physiological parameters, including brain activity, eye movement, heart rate, respiratory effort, and oxygen saturation, are monitored while the individual sleeps. Home sleep apnea testing (HSAT) is a more convenient and cost-effective alternative for certain cases.


Untreated OSA can lead to a myriad of health issues, including hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, stroke, diabetes, and impaired cognitive function. Additionally, the chronic sleep disruption associated with OSA contributes to an increased risk of accidents, diminished quality of life, and mood disorders.

Treatment Options

Treatment strategies for OSA range from lifestyle modifications to medical interventions. Weight loss, positional therapy, and avoiding alcohol and sedatives before bedtime are recommended for mild cases. Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy, the most common medical intervention, involves wearing a mask that delivers a steady stream of air to keep the airway open. Other options include dental appliances, surgery, and positional therapy devices.


Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a prevalent and often underdiagnosed sleep disorder with potentially serious consequences. Early recognition and appropriate management are crucial for preventing complications and improving the overall well-being of individuals affected by OSA. A collaborative approach involving healthcare professionals, patients, and their families is essential for effective diagnosis, treatment, and long-term management of this condition.

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