Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that is one of the hardest to diagnose. No doctor could easily and accurately tell if you are suffering from one with just one consultation or even a series of blood tests. Sleep apnea symptoms appear when you are asleep, so the best way to know if you have one is to ask your bed partner or roommate about the noise you make when you are asleep and the presence of any period when breathing seems to pause or stop for a while.
Aside from that, most doctors also run several other forms of diagnosis to support your suspicion and the testimony of your bed partner or roommate. The primary care doctor would evaluate symptoms before going further. There are three diagnostic measures to take after an analysis of family and medical history, physical examination, and sleep studies.
Be prepared when the doctor starts asking you about your own as well as your family’s medical history. It would be best if you would be as honest as you could. It would help if you started keeping a sleep diary even for just a week or two. In the diary, list the number of hours of sleep you get every night and how sleepy you get at different times of the day. One of the symptoms of sleep apnea is sleepiness during daytime due to a lack of sleep (induced by sleep apnea). Your roommate or bed partner would also be asked about how loud and how often you gasp or snore during sleep. It would be better if you would tell him of any sleep apnea record of your family. The disorder is hereditary.
The next option or step to the diagnosis of sleep apnea is physical examination. Your nose, mouth, and throat would be checked and analyzed for any presence of large or extra tissues. The doctor would also check out the bone structure in your head and neck as it could affect airway passage. Physical exam, along with a rundown of family history, could be enough to diagnose the presence of sleep apnea in children.
As for adults, there could be enlargement of the soft palate or uvula. Soft palate is the roof-like structure at the back of your throat. The uvula is a small tissue that hangs conveniently from the back of your mouth’s middle section. In some cases, enlarged tonsils are checked out.
Finally, a sleep study is so far the most accurate diagnostic test for sleep apnea detection. It could capture your breathing pattern as you sleep. Needless to say, it is conducted as you sleep within a sleep lab or a sleep center. You may be asked to stay overnight in the hospital’s sleep lab for observation. A polysomnogram is at type of specific sleep study for sleep apnea detection. It is able to record brain activity, heart rate and breathing pattern, eye movement, muscle activity, blood oxygen level, and air passage to the lungs as you sleep.
Do not worry because polysomnogram is usually painless. You would be induced to sleep, though there would be sensors attached to your face, limbs, fingers, chest, and scalp. This sleep apnea test is done within a sleep study in a hospital sleeping lab overnight.
It could reveal any presence of the disorder, the type, and even the severity of the condition.