Consequences of Untreated Sleep Apnea

By September 15, 2021 February 15th, 2022 Sleep Medicine
tired man with bags under eyes suffering from the consequences on untreated sleep apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is triggered when the complete or partial airway is blocked during sleep, resulting in intermittent breathing and reduced oxygen levels. When left untreated, sleep apnea can affect a person’s heart, liver, and quality of life.

Cardiovascular Problems

Slow, deep breathing helps maintain oxygen levels in the blood. Inferior, irregular breathing patterns drop blood oxygen levels suddenly. Patients with sleep apnea may experience changes in blood pressure and heart rhythms, stressing the cardiovascular system.

According to the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, sleep apnea-related cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death among adults in developed countries. Researchers estimate that sleep apnea contributes to thousands of cardiovascular deaths and millions of dollars spent on related hospitalizations. Obstructive sleep apnea increases the risk of:

  • Heart failure by 140%.
  • Stroke by 60%.
  • Coronary heart disease by 30%.

Additionally, obstructive sleep apnea is often associated with the development of type 2 diabetes. When paired with obesity, obstructive sleep apnea alters glucose metabolism and promotes insulin resistance.

Liver Disease

When it comes to the connection between sleep apnea and liver disease, scientific research is limited. However, scientists hypothesize that the presence and severity of obstructive sleep apnea directly correspond with the presence and severity of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). 

Extra weight and insulin resistance can contribute to NAFLD development, but it’s important to note that even lean patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease have a higher risk of developing sleep apnea. The combination of these symptoms promotes fat deposits in the liver. For some people, excess liver cells act as toxins and cause inflammation, which can become scar tissue in due time. 

Personal Consequences

Are chronic daytime fatigue, memory problems, and mood disorders interfering with your daily work and social life? Excessive sleepiness during the day is usually the first sign of sleep apnea and can make it more challenging to work, communicate with others, and operate moving vehicles. In addition to fatigue, it may be more taxing to remember, concentrate, or react in social or work environments.

Lack of Oxygen

Because the human body thrives with an appropriate supply of oxygen, a chronically oxygen-deprived body can increase the chances of anxiety, depression, severe psychological distress, and suicide ideation. Decreased oxygen levels strain the body and increase the production of corticosteroids (stress hormones). A higher level of stress can impair mood and induce inflammation throughout the body.

Detriment to Personal Relationships

Moreover, sleep apnea can damage personal relationships. Anxiety and depression can pose challenges for maintaining relationships and engaging in social activities. For example, people who suffer from sleep apnea-related depression are less motivated to engage in physical activities because they feel too tired. In men, sleep apnea can lead to erectile dysfunction. Additionally, sleep apnea can cause loud, obnoxious snoring that may bother significant others. 

Schedule an Appointment

Obstructive sleep apnea can lead to negative consequences, but treatment can successfully reduce or resolve sleep apnea problems. Dr. Timothy Mickiewicz diagnoses and treats obstructive sleep apnea in the Sacramento, CA area. After an at-home sleep test, Dr. Mickiewicz may prescribe a mandibular advancement device as a non-invasive first step to treat or cure obstructive sleep apnea.

If you are concerned about sleep apnea, call 916-499-9178 or message us online to schedule an appointment at our office today.