Many people snore in their sleep. Most of the time it is harmless, and goes away when you change positions in your sleep. Sometimes, however, it can signal a much more serious problem called sleep apnea. Snoring is a symptom of sleep apnea, a condition in which individuals actually stop breathing intermittently during the night. Sleep apnea is treatable, and it’s important to understand the condition to prevent it from affecting you or a loved one with serious consequences.
Sleep Apnea Basics and Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea breathing pauses during sleep typically last between 10 and 20 seconds, but they can occur many times during the night and can even wake the person experiencing the condition. The next day, you may notice feeling more fatigued than normal. When left untreated, this cycle can affect your general health over time. It can precipitate or worsen conditions like diabetes, weight gain, high blood pressure, and more.
There are two main types of sleep apnea, central and obstructive. With central sleep apnea, your breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep. This happens because your brain doesn’t send proper signals to the muscles that control your breathing. Other conditions, such as heart failure or a stroke, make also results in central sleep apnea.
Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form of sleep apnea that physicians treat. During obstructive sleep apnea, the muscles of the throat relax during sleep and block the airway. Snoring is an indicator that someone may have the condition, which commonly affects individuals who are overweight, but can also occur during the aging process.
Upon awaking, sleep apnea patients may choke or gasp at the lack of air. Many patients don’t remember waking up intermittently, but they are still affected from the sleep disturbance the next day.
Treatment for obstructive sleep apnea commonly involves using a breathing device called a CPAP. While CPAP technology has been around for years, it has recently become much more comfortable for patients to adopt. The technology keeps airways open during sleep, preventing the symptoms of sleep apnea. Alternatively, some individuals may undergo a medical procedure to alter their respiratory passages and promote the flow of air during sleep. Losing weight, stopping smoking, avoiding caffeine, and maintaining a regular sleep routine are all ways that individuals can effectively reduce or eliminate sleep apnea. Talk to your physician about healthy lifestyle changes that may help.
When to Seek Help
If you notice symptoms such as chronic fatigue, frequent wakefulness during the night, headaches in the morning, or having dry mouth upon waking, you may have sleep apnea. If your partner frequently mentions that you have been snoring during the evening, try to keep a sleep diary or record yourself sleeping to determine if you may be suffering from sleep apnea. Ask your doctor whether a sleep study or further evaluation is necessary.
Contact KCA Neurology to learn more about sleep apnea.
A diagnosis of epilepsy is often a blessing and a curse for patients and their families. On the one hand, they finally have an explanation for the unpredictable seizures, but on the other this condition comes with many stigmas that can lead to anxiety and depression in the patient and their loved ones.
There is hope for epilepsy patients, because talented neurologists like those at KCA Neurology have been researching the disease tirelessly for decades. Their work has resulted in some truly effective treatments with fewer side effects than older treatments.
What Causes Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is characterized by permanent changes in brain tissues causing the brain to be overly excitable, even jumpy. Abnormal neural signals are sent out, causing repeated, unpredictable seizures.
There are many known causes of epilepsy, but in some cases the cause is unknown. Common causes are:
- Infections, such as brain abscess, encephalitis, meningitis, or AIDS
- Brain tumor
- Traumatic brain injury
- Congenital defects of the brain or metabolism
- Brain injuries incurred during or shortly after birth
- Abnormal brain blood vessels
This is in no way an exhaustive list, so patients experiencing multiple seizures should immediately contact a physician and neurologist to get a diagnosis as soon as possible. With the variety of treatments available, no one should have to suffer with this debilitating condition.
The Symptoms of Epilepsy
Every patient will present their own unique set of symptoms, as is often the case in diagnosing neural diseases. There is a commonly held misconception that epileptic seizures consist of loss of consciousness accompanied by convulsions, yet many symptoms exist.
These range from staring spells, often unnoticed by the patient, to violent shaking episodes, and a loss of alertness. The type of seizure a patient may experience depends on the area of the brain affected by the condition.
How Epilepsy Is Diagnosed
A physical examination of the patient accompanied with a comprehensive look at the brain and nervous system is always the first step to treatment. Checking the electrical activity of the brain with an electroencephalogram (EEG) is often the first step.
Other tests that may be done are:
- Complete blood count
- Blood sugar
- Blood chemistry
- Kidney and liver function tests
The goal for every epilepsy treatment plan is, “no seizures, no side effects,” and while this might not be immediately achievable, it should be the long-term aim of all patients and their physicians.
Contact KCA Neurology to learn more.
Age-related conditions, particularly those impacting cognitive abilities, are poorly understood by the general public, which can lead to anxiety and misconceptions about the condition. It is important to understand how to identify the symptoms of dementia in order to get the best treatment from your physician.
Dementia is not a specific condition, it is a “catch-all” term for any condition in which mental ability has declined enough to interfere with the functions of daily life. Dementia is often caused by Alzheimer’s disease, though not always.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms?
Memory loss is just one example of the symptoms associated with dementia. However, simple forgetfulness or absent-minded behaviors are not enough to warrant a diagnosis of dementia. True memory loss means being unable to recognize immediate family members or close friends, forgetting where one is or how to get home, and other debilitating memory loss problems.
Furthermore, many people still hold the misconception that serious mental decline is a normal part of the aging process. This is not true, and if you or a loved one experience serious impairment in any two of the following mental functions, contact a physician immediately:
- Language and communication
- Focus and ability to maintain attention
- Visual perception
- Judgment and reasoning
Dementia is often depicted as inevitable or untreatable, which could not be further from the truth.
If identified in the beginning stages, dementia is treatable and sometimes reversible. Speak to a neurologist about the causes of your dementia and how to treat them. Some examples of effective treatments are:
- Taking an inventory of medications currently being taken, some may lead to memory loss or confusion, especially in older patients
- Treating an infection such as encephalitis
- Anti-depressants sometimes help, as depression is sometimes misdiagnosed as dementia in older patients
- Removal of a brain tumor or other ways to reduce pressure on the brain
- Thyroid hormones are effective in treating hypothyroidism
- A B12 deficiency could be the culprit; taking vitamin supplements may help
In some cases, the causes of dementia in a particular patient may be untreatable. In this case, it is important to research palliative care options. Many associate palliative care with end of life services, but it is also designed to improve the quality of life for patients and caregivers.
Work with your neurologist and palliative care providers to create a care plan. A diagnosis of dementia can lead to unbearable anxiety, fear, or even anger. Home care and maintaining independence for the patient are ways to ease the transition into a new lifestyle.
Contact one of the professionals at KCA Neurology to find out how we can help treat dementia you or a loved one may experience.