Sleep Apnea in Women

Sleep Apnea

Women: The Most Underdiagnosed

Women of the world, we are busy people. We get tired. We stay tired (with so many things on our minds and responsibilities, who can blame us?), and the mornings are really hard. Sure, our memory isn’t always the greatest (lack of sleep will do that). And, okay, maybe we snore- just a little. We don’t complain about any of it. We push through doing our hardest to get it all done.

And this is part of why women are the most underdiagnosed/misdiagnosed group of sleep apnea sufferers. Despite the traditional picture of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) sufferers being older, overweight men, it is also common for women to have sleep apnea. In fact, the Alaska Sleep Clinic says that although sleep apnea is twice in common in men than in women, men are diagnosed 8 times as often.

And although men and women sleep apnea suffers may differ in their outward symptoms, the toll it takes on our bodies is the same. These outward differences, coupled with cultural reasons and a shortage of popular knowledge on sleep apnea in women, cause sleep apnea to potentially make the hardest impact on women who largely go untreated.

Do any of these sound like you?:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Moody
  • Morning headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Frequent awakening at night
  • Snoring with occasional choking sounds
  • Pauses in breathing during sleep
  • Dry mouth when waking up in the morning

 Contributing factors for OSA among women:

  • Obesity
  • Post-menopausal women are 3 times more likely to suffer from OSA.
  • Being pregnant
  • Endocrine disorder, polycystic ovary syndrome

According to Dr. Pien, MD, MS at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Women who have high blood pressure that is difficult to control despite taking medication and have some of these symptoms may also wish to be evaluated for sleep apnea, as diagnosis and treatment of OSA can help with blood pressure control”.

Because these are also signs of other health issues, OSA in women is often misdiagnosed. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the most common misdiagnoses are the following:

  • Anemia
  • Cardiac or pulmonary illnesses
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Fatigue from overwork
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Hypertension
  • Hypochondria
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Insomnia
  • Menopausal changes
  • Obesity

Besides alleviating OSA sufferers of the symptoms, there are other important reasons to visit a doctor if you think you may have OSA:

  • Females who suffer from OSA have higher mortality rates than men with OSA.
  • OSA is a significant contributing factor for heart disease.
  • OSA increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes
  • OSA encourages high blood pressure.

We want you to be healthy and happy, so talk to your doctor if you think you may be one of the many undiagnosed OSA sufferers.

Note that this article is not meant to replace professional medical advice.

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