An estimated 22 million Americans have sleep apnea while 80% of cases are left undiagnosed. What many people don’t realize about leaving their sleep apnea undiagnosed is that a lack of treatment can lead to serious health dangers. This is why it’s so important to get tested for sleep apnea if you experience any symptoms. Recognize the symptoms of sleep apnea, get tested, receive treatment, and lower your risk of the following dangers.

Cardiovascular Risks

One of the biggest health effects of untreated sleep apnea is cardiovascular risks. Cardiovascular problems are some of the most dangerous risks associated with sleep apnea. Some can even be life-threatening. So why does sleep apnea put so much strain on the heart? When your oxygen levels drop at night, the body releases epinephrine which is a stress hormone. When the body continuously releases this throughout the night, adrenaline levels remain high which can result in high blood pressure. High blood pressure can then result in other heart problems including:

The best way to decrease your risks of cardiovascular problems when you have sleep apnea is to consistently use your recommended sleep apnea treatment and make healthy lifestyle changes like exercising and eating right.

Type 2 Diabetes

Sleep apnea affects glucose metabolism and promotes insulin resistance which can cause type 2 diabetes to develop. Additionally, those who have type 2 diabetes are also at a higher risk of having sleep apnea because type 2 diabetes usually goes hand in hand with weight problems. Treating sleep apnea can help reduce the risk of developing diabetes and also help those who already have diabetes regulate their metabolism and gain the energy they need to exercise and eat right to reverse their type 2 diabetes.

muscular man sleeping in bed, snoring

Glaucoma

Sleep apnea doesn’t just affect your heart but also your eyes. There is evidence that there is a strong association between glaucoma and sleep apnea. Researchers recommend that patients who have glaucoma should take a sleep test to determine if they have sleep apnea. On the flip side, those who suffer from sleep apnea should get regular glaucoma screenings. CPAP therapy might trigger more glaucoma damage and progression if it’s undiagnosed.

Pregnancy Complications

It’s possible to develop sleep apnea during pregnancy and it’s also possible to experience pregnancy complications as a result of the sleep apnea that developed either before or during pregnancy. When a pregnant woman leaves sleep apnea untreated, it’s cutting off oxygen to both her and the baby. This can increase the risk of stroke, heart attack, high blood pressure, depression, heart failure, obesity, gestational diabetes, and preeclampsia. For a safe and healthy pregnancy, it’s important to pay attention to any potential sleep apnea symptoms and to start and use treatment consistently throughout the pregnancy (and life).

Liver Damage

Another risk you face with untreated sleep apnea is liver damage. Studies indicate that obstructive sleep apnea has a strong association with liver damage specifically from Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD). This disease causes excess fat to build up in the liver and over time the liver grows and the liver cells become replaced with scar tissue. Eventually, the liver begins to malfunction, cirrhosis, liver cancer, or even liver failure. If you already have NAFLD, a study concluded that sleep apnea can make it worse. Researchers believe the progression from sleep apnea is from oxygen deprivation. It’s incredibly important to consistently use your sleep apnea treatment if you already suffer from NAFLD otherwise your condition can progress even faster.

Cognitive and Mental Health Complications

Sleep apnea can also lead to cognitive and mental health complications including increased rates of depression, cognitive impairment, and dementia. Some research found that a lack of sleep is the biggest contributor to mental health complications from sleep apnea.

The cognitive impairments from sleep apnea include a loss of memory, concept forming, motor performance and control, verbal reasoning and functioning, and speed of processing. The lack of sleep from sleep apnea affects the brain tremendously and can make even simple math feel challenging.

With sleep apnea treatment, patients can reduce their risk of developing cognitive or mental health complications.

Sleep Apnea Treatment in Naples, FL

If you exhibit any of the symptoms of sleep apnea such as snoring, morning headaches, daytime sleepiness, gasping for air during sleep, choking or coughing during sleep, dry mouth upon waking, or irritability during the day, you might have sleep apnea. If you do have sleep apnea and leave it untreated, you’re putting yourself at a higher risk of developing the conditions listed above.

We encourage you to schedule an appointment at Massa Dental Center for an evaluation. We might refer you to a physician to administer a home sleep test and provide you with a diagnosis. If you do have sleep apnea, we offer several custom-fit oral appliances to help you manage your condition.

Please contact our Naples sleep dentists today at (239) 597-7333 to book an appointment.