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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Diseases and Conditions > Obstructive Sleep Apnea
      Category : Health Centers > Sleep Disorders

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Alternate Names : Obstructive Apnea

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

Sleep apnea is the term used for periods in which a person temporarily stops breathing while asleep. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when something is blocking the airway. It is the most common type of sleep apnea.

What is going on in the body?

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when tissue in the upper airways blocks the breathing passages. The blockage may come from a collapsed uvula. The uvula is the soft tissue that hangs down at the back of the throat. Large tonsils or other excess tissue may also block the airway.

When the muscles relax during sleep, excess tissue can drop into the air passage and interrupt breathing. The person continues to try to breathe around the blockage but can't get enough oxygen. Carbon dioxide builds up in the person's blood. This problem corrects itself as soon as normal breathing is restored.

What are the causes and risks of the condition?

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the airway is blocked by excess tissue. Seventy percent of individuals with this problem are overweight. Symptoms often improve or go away entirely if some of this excess weight is lost.

Other risk factors for sleep apnea include:

  • drinking excessive amounts of alcohol
  • enlarged tonsils
  • lung diseases, such as emphysema
  • sleeping on the back
  • smoking cigarettes
  • using sleep medications
  • Obstructive sleep apnea occurs 3 to 20 times more often in men than in women. The women who do get it are most often past menopause.


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    Obstructive Sleep Apnea: Symptoms & Signs

    Author: Jorge Allende, MD
    Reviewer: Eileen McLaughlin, RN, BSN
    Date Reviewed: 07/09/01

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