Diagnosis for sleep apnea can be one of the more challenging aspects of sleep apnea treatment. Unlike many other health issues, there is no quick test that patients can undergo to diagnose their sleep apnea problems. Additionally, your medical doctor may make an evaluation based on your signs and symptoms or may refer you to a sleep disorder center. If you are referred to a sleep specialist, they can help you decide on your need for further evaluation.
If patients think they have a sleep disorder, we encourage them to consider keeping a sleep diary for a week or two. Be sure to detail as much of your sleep history as possible, even if it seems inconsequential. Write down when you go to sleep, what time you wake up, and when you take naps. Also be sure to write down how many hours you sleep each night, how alert and rested you feel in the morning, and if you feel sleepy during the day. This information will help your doctor figure out whether you have a sleep disorder and what types of additional testing need to be done.
Doctors diagnose sleep apnea based on medical and family histories, a physical exam, and sometimes sleep study results. Usually, the first step will be for your primary care doctor to evaluate your known symptoms. He or she will then evaluate your symptoms and determine whether you need to see a sleep apnea specialist.
During your initial examination, your doctor will ask you questions about how you sleep and how you function during the day. He or she will want to know how loudly you snore and how often you make gasping or choking sounds while sleeping.
Your doctor will check your mouth, nose, and throat for extra or large tissues. Children who have sleep apnea might have enlarged tonsils. Doctors may need only a physical exam and medical history to diagnose sleep apnea in children.
Specific tests to detect sleep apnea may include any of the following :
1) Nocturnal polysomnography. During this type of test, patients are hooked up to equipment that monitors the heart, lung s and brain.The machines also evaluate breathing patterns, arm and leg movements, and blood oxygen levels while patients sleep. The results of these tests are extremely effective in determining treatment for sleep apnea.
2) Home sleep tests. In some cases, patients are provided with a test to be used at home to diagnose their sleep apnea. These home tests measure your heart rate, blood oxygen levels, airflow, and breathing patterns. Portable monitoring devices don’t detect all cases of sleep apnea, so your doctor may still recommend polysomnography even if your initial results appear to be normal.
If you are diagnosed with certain types of sleep apnea, you may be referred to an ear, nose and throat doctor. This will allow your doctor to rule out a possible blockage in your nose or throat. An additional evaluation by a heart doctor ora nervous system specialist may be necessary to look for additional causes behind your sleep apnea.
If you are looking for a specialist to help with your sleep apnea, there are various resources to help. We recommend that patients can click on the following links for more information about various physician directories and sleep centers:
Patients can check the credentials of specialists at the web sites of the American Board of Internal Medicine and the American Board of Sleep Medicine. You should also feel free to ask any doctor about their credentials and the diagnostic procedures that will be followed.
Believe it or not, dentists are wonderful treatment options for sleep apnea. Dentists who treat sleep disorders with oral appliances are usually members of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine. The AADSM maintains a web site with a searchable directory of dentists who specialize in treating certain sleep problems.
If you find yourself waking up due to snoring or other causes multiple times every night, you could be suffering from the negative effects of sleep apnea. This common sleep disorder may be causing you to lose valuable sleep, impacting your health or causing personality changes. Don’t wait to get treatment; check out the rest of our specially created sleep apnea infosite or call our office for more information. If referred, our knowledgeable and friendly staff is standing by to help you schedule a consultation with Dr. Bell.
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