Treatment Goals for Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea has two major effects on a person who has the condition. The effects are the disruption of sleep and the development of long term medical problems.
Sleep disruption produces a whole variety of symptoms. They include excessive daytime sleepiness, frequent nocturnal awakenings, morning headaches and many more. People who have sleep apnea experience unrefreshed sleep. Sleeping is a restorative process. When it is interrupted frequently, symptoms occur.
Obstructive sleep apnea causes long-term medical problems. These problems include hypertension, type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease, heart attacks, strokes, accidents and early death. It has been clearly demonstrated that controlling obstructive sleep apnea significantly reduces the occurrence of these illnesses. If an illness is already present when apnea is diagnosed, it also makes the treatment of the conditions much easier.
It is not uncommon or someone to still have symptoms after their apnea has been totally corrected. It is also not uncommon for someone to be symptom free on therapy for apnea, yet still have significant apnea.
The symptoms produced by sleep apnea are apparent to the person with the disorder. The effects of treatment on those symptoms will also be apparent to the person. They may be satisfied or not satisfied with the changes.
The risk of long term medical problems from obstructive sleep apnea is best assessed by measuring how well the treatment corrects the underlying apnea problem. There are a variety of methods for a physician to judge if the apnea events are under control. The measurement that is the best predictor of long term medical complications is the apnea-hypopnea index (AHI). Newer technology allows easy monitoring of the AHI so that a physician can measure how well the chosen treatment is working to correct the obstructions.
The ideal results of treatment should be the clearing of symptoms and control of the obstructive apneic events. This is achievable in the majority of patients. When this is not achievable, often an acceptable balance of reduced symptom and obstructive event control can be reached.