Sleep Care

Self Diagnosing and Self Treating Sleep Disorders

In this day and age with rising insurance costs, and ample opportunities to type one’s symptoms into Google or WebMD the tendency for someone to come to their own conclusion on their health has never been stronger. This presents many different challenges and dangers to the person’s health when trying to self-diagnose or self-treat illnesses. A physician has the ability to take a much more objective view on illnesses and symptoms and mixed with extensive education and experience proves vital to proper diagnosis. Too often when people are simply performing an Internet search, symptoms are missed and negative repercussions are experienced. This is extremely prevalent in the world of sleep disorders and sleep apnea. It is estimated 1 in 5 adults has some form of mild sleep disordered breathing (SDB), 1 in 15 has some form of moderate to severe SBD, and this equates to approximately 42 million adults in the United States. What’s more alarming is that 75% percent of the moderate to severe sleep disordered breathing

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cases remain undiagnosed. Sleep apnea can be directly related to high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and even an increase in vehicle accidents due to drowsy driving. These facts mixed with the issue of trying to self-diagnose and self-treat is a very dangerous issue. Home officeThe most popular symptoms of sleep apnea are rather evident and easy to observe which plays a huge role in people self-diagnosing. A few examples of these are loud snoring, gasping for breath while sleeping, making choking sounds in your sleep, and being tired throughout the day. Many are not aware of the subtle signs of sleep apnea such as forgetfulness, being easily irritated, and trouble concentrating. These are symptoms that physicians are aware of and can objectively examine, but unfortunately most people are not aware of. The fact that snoring (one of the most popular symptoms of sleep apnea) does not always result in someone having sleep apnea also contributes to this problem. Often people dismiss snoring, thinking that all they do is snore and there are no other issues; thus leading to a mindset of, “I don’t have sleep apnea, because I ONLY snore”. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) also plays a role in self-treatment and diagnosis of sleep apnea as well. There are different estimates of overall compliance to CPAP but numbers vary from 23 to 83 percent. Most of this gap is due to the definition of “compliance” varies from study to study. CPAP can be intimidating and uncomfortable leading patients to look to other outlets. Outlets such as mouth guards picked up at the local drug store or pillows that help elevate the head are too heavily relied on without consultation from a physician. While these different “self-treatments” may help reduce SDB, often they are not successful in truly “treating” SDB. While there are signs and symptoms of sleep apnea and over the counter “treatments” for sleep apnea a person should always consult a physician first before relying on such “treatments” or denying having sleep disordered breathing. Sleep apnea can be very dangerous to one’s health and result in other serious health conditions. A diagnosis of sleep apnea requires seeing a sleep specialist and having an overnight sleep study performed, but is able to be completed in the comfort of one’s own home in certain circumstances. The cons outweigh the pros when choosing to not consult in a physician, and really can harm a person’s overall health.

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