When Should I See a Doctor for Snoring?

When Should I See a Doctor for Snoring?

Snoring is common, especially in men, but making such a rumbling sound is not unusual. As many as 90 million U.S. adults snore at one time or another, and 37 million do so regularly. As you drift off to sleep, your body naturally relax, including your mouth, throat, and tongue. If tissue relaxation partially blocks your airway, it can cause throat snoring as the tissues vibrate.

While this may not sound like a significant issue, it's estimated that 75% of people who snore regularly have a condition called obstructive sleep apnea, which is a serious and potentially fatal condition if left untreated. So, the question remains: How do you know when to visit a snoring specialist?

When Should I See a Doctor for Snoring?

What Symptoms Should I Be Aware Of?

Not everyone who snores has obstructive sleep apnea, but there are several symptoms you should be aware of that may indicate a problem, such as:

  • Frequent awakening during sleep
  • Irregular breathing
  • Gasping awake
  • Choking at night
  • Restless sleep
  • Morning headaches
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Concentration difficulties
  • Irritability
  • Sore throat from snoring

Other indicators may include chest pain at night, high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, and frequent nocturnal urination. Although not a problem in itself, it is believed that the frequent awakening leads to increased trips to the bathroom.

Children may also experience some of the same symptoms of sleep apnea, but they may also be accompanied by:

  • Poor attention spans
  • Behavioral issues
  • School performance issues

How Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea Diagnosed?

A sleep study is often necessary if snoring is a problem and you're experiencing any of these symptoms. In the past, you would have had to visit a sleep center for an overnight test. However, it is now possible for the evaluation to take place using an at-home sleep study device. Sensors will be attached to the body to record brain activity, breathing rate, oxygen levels, and other relevant data, regardless of the study location. An ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist who specializes in snoring will then use the data to arrive at the proper diagnosis.

What Are My Treatment Options?

As with any condition, treatment options will vary greatly for each individual. However, the most common form of treatment is positive airway pressure therapy. As you might expect, a CPAP machine delivers gentle air pressure through a mask to keep the airways open, reduce or eliminate snoring, and improve breathing.

However, additional recommendations may also be made to address the primary cause of your sleep apnea. For some individuals, it may simply be a matter of losing weight to lessen the severity of their condition. Others may benefit from daily exercise. Studies have shown that adding a 20-minute walk to your daily routine can lower the risk of developing the condition.

Your doctor may also recommend that you avoid drinking alcohol, try nasal decongestants, or even consider a change in your medication regimen. Certain pain medications can lead to medication-induced sleep apnea. It should be noted that this type of sleep apnea is central, which results from the brain failing to send the right signals to induce breathing. It's not as prevalent as obstructive sleep apnea.

In addition, your doctor may determine that a surgical procedure would benefit your health and well-being. Somnoplasty, for example, is a relatively new treatment option. It involves using low-power radiofrequency energy to reduce the size of any obstructions that may be contributing to your snoring and sleep apnea.

What Are the Health Dangers If Left Untreated?

Sleep apnea complications extend beyond daytime fatigue, concentration difficulties, or irritability. If you suffer from sleep apnea, leaving it untreated increases the risk of the following:

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Liver problems
  • Heart disease
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke

Consult an ENT snoring specialist to determine whether your snoring is simply an annoyance or a symptom of obstructive sleep apnea. If you would like more information about snoring, sleep apnea, or your treatment options, the ENT of Georgia South team would be happy to schedule a consultation with a snoring specialist. Contact us today.

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