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The Science Journal of the Lander College of Arts and Sciences

Abstract

Over the past few years, awareness of the prevalence of obstructive sleep apnea has significantly increased. Indeed, sleep apnea may be more common now with the increasing incidence of obesity and the growing number of elderly individuals in our population. How serious is this condition, and what are the potential long-term effects and consequences of obstructive sleep apnea if left untreated? An overlap of many serious conditions with obstructive sleep apnea has been noticed. These conditions include hypertension, heart disease and failure, stroke, diabetes, neurological diseases, depression, and a number of other serious health concerns. The purpose of this paper is to understand what the effects of untreated obstructive sleep apnea might be, and to determine if is reasonable to suggest that sleep apnea is the cause of, or at least a significant contributing factor to, the conditions it is associated with. Research shows that sleep apnea itself does inflict enormous trauma on the body. This trauma is mainly in the forms of hypoxia which leads to oxidative stress, vascular damage, and hyperstimulation of the sympathetic nervous system which can lead to high blood pressure and subsequent heart disease and failure, and by causing repeated episodes of unnatural intrathoracic pressure which can lead to a number serious health concerns and even sudden death. These findings demonstrate that sleep apnea should not be viewed as an incidental condition alongside other serious health problems nor mainly as a side effect of them. It should rather be seen as a contributing factor, if not the primary cause, of many consequential health issues.

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