Primary Care Physicians: Recognizing and Addressing Obstructive Sleep Apnea to Benefit Your Patient

As you know, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can lead to serious comorbidity. When OSA goes untreated, your patients are at increased risk for:
• Cardiovascular disease (hypertension, heart attack, stroke, A-Fib, endothelial dysfunction…)
• Diabetes
• Depression
• Decreased libido
• Neurocognitive deficit (daytime hypersomnolence, irritability, memory decrement, decreased productivity at work…)
• Socially unacceptable snoring
• Accidents and injury in the workplace and on the highway

Sleep health should be kept at the forefront during all patient interaction.

It is estimated that 22 million Americans suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, with 80 percent of cases undiagnosed. So 20 million Americans are living with a very serious sleep disorder and may not realize they need to be treated.

Treatment for OSA can start with you, the primary care physician. This blog is meant to serve as a reminder to keep sleep health at the forefront when consulting with your patients. It offers additional perspective when treating many maladies, oftentimes treating the root of the problem rather than merely symptoms or consequences. Screening for sleep apnea can start with a simple set of questions asking about symptoms listed below. If sleep apnea is suspected, a sleep test (in-home or in-lab) is easy to order and can accurately diagnose the problem.

Nighttime symptoms may include snoring, observed pauses in breathing or awakenings with a choking or gasping sensation. Daytime symptoms include excessive sleepiness, impaired alertness, irritability, difficulty concentrating and drowsiness behind the wheel. It is particularly helpful to note that sleep apnea occurs often times in our patients who are not overweight.

Please use our website as a resource, both for yourself, and for your patients. We have many different blog articles to help your patients understand sleep apnea, treatment options, the effects of sleep deprivation, sleep study information, and more. Our goal is to help get treatment for those who need it, and improve their quality of life through better quality sleep.

We post our professional information on the Pittsburgh Dental Sleep Medicine LinkedInpage, and post Network news, oral appliance articles, sleep tips, and sleep apnea information our Facebook page. Take a moment to Like or Follow Us in either place to keep sleep apnea at the forefront of your patient discussions.

Pittsburgh Dental Sleep Medicine has been working with primary care physicians, sleep specialists and other medical specialists for over 25 years to treat patients who are either CPAP intolerant or reject CPAP as a treatment modality. The dentists in our network are board-certified in dental sleep medicine (or board eligible) and all of the offices are nationally accredited in dental sleep medicine.

This blog was co-written by Dr. Rogers, DMD, DABDSM, and Dr. Bijwadia, MD.

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