An estimated 100,000 Irish people suffer from sleep apnoea
90% of those who suffer from the disorder remain undiagnosed
Sufferers should not drive unless they are receiving treatment
Over 100,000 Irish people suffer from sleep apnoea but the true figure could be twice that as awareness of the disorder grows a conference in Galway heard today.
An expert on the disorder told delegates at the annual conference of the Irish Dental Association that 90% of those who suffer from sleep apnoea are undiagnosed.
Sleep apnoea occurs when the airway collapses and there is a cessation of airflow for 10 seconds. If this happens constantly during the night every night it prevents the person getting the deep sleep required to function normally.
Symptoms of apnoea include:
- inappropriate fatigue
- choking episodes during sleep
- excessive napping
- bruxism or tooth grinding
- irritability, anxiety and poor mental functioning
Dr Michael McWeeney, Consultant Respiratory Physician in Galway Clinic and the Bon Secours Hospital says the prevalence of the condition is rising in tandem with our increasing awareness.
“Overall we believe the condition affects between 2.5 and 4% of the population but because most people who suffer from it remain undiagnosed that figure may be a little on the conservative side. We are in an obesity epidemic and that increases the severity of apnoea. Poor muscle tone and alcohol consumption also increase the risk substantially. What we really want to do is raise awareness of the condition not just among the general population but also among health providers such as doctors and dentists.
Thirty per cent of men snore while the figure for women is around 10%. Snoring on its own is not the issue as not everyone who snores has apnoea. However if a person who snores suffers from constant fatigue despite adequate sleep they should visit a doctor or specialist with knowledge of the condition to get a diagnosis” Dr McWeeney said.
Dr Dermot Canavan who specialises in the treatment of orofacial pain pointed out that dentists are in a position to provide oral appliances that can be used in mild to moderate cases of sleep apnoea where a patient finds CPAP (a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine) unsuitable.
“If a person is napping a lot or falling asleep regularly at the cinema they could well be suffering from this disorder. Naturally the consequences of them falling asleep while driving or operating machinery are very serious. The Road Safety Authority has in fact issued guidelines mandating people to tell the driving licensing authority if they have apnoea and they cannot drive unless they receive treatment.
Treatment for the condition may include lifestyle adjustments such as losing weight or adjusting sleeping position, the use of Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP machine) or a device similar to a sports mouth guard called a Mandibular Advancement Device (MAD) which can be made by a dentist.
Sleep apnoea is an extremely debilitating condition and the earlier it is identified the greater the likelihood of successful treatment” Dr Canavan concluded.
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