Sleep Apnoea: How to Diagnose
Diagnosing sleep apnoea is based on a person’s medical and family histories, a thorough physical exam and results of a credible sleep study. If you exhibit symptoms of sleep apnoea you should first consult with your primary care doctor to evaluate your symptoms. Based on the consult, the doctor will then decide if you need further consult with a sleep specialist.
Doctors who diagnose, manage and treat people with sleep disorders are called sleep specialists. It is usual for these doctors to be ear, nose and throat (ENT) and lung specialists. However, with the proper training, other types of doctors can become sleep specialists too.
Medical and Family Histories
If you suspect you have sleeping disorder, ask your partner or relative to observe you while you sleep. If you have obstructive sleep apnoea, episodes of breathlessness will readily show during sleep.
Before seeing a doctor, it may help if you keep a sleep diary for at least a week. You should write down the time you go to sleep, wake up and take short naps. You should also indicate how rested and alert you feel when you wake up in the morning: or how tired and sleepy you are during the day. Show the sleep diary to your doctor during your consult as this will greatly help his diagnosis.
During consult, your doctor will ask questions pertaining to how you sleep and how you function (or nor function) in the daytime. Since your doctor will ask how loud and often you snore, or make choking/gasping sounds while you sleep, it is best to ask your partner or relative (who observe you while you sleep) to write down such episodes.
If anyone in the family has symptoms of or has been diagnosed with sleep apnoea, tell your doctor.
Tests for Sleep Apnoea
Your doctor’s will first do a physical examination to check your nose, mouth and throat for large or extra tissues. Children with sleep apnoea usually have enlarged tonsil and this readily confirms sleep apnoea in them. Adults suspected of sleep apnoea will usually have an enlarged soft palate or uvula. The soft palate is the roof of your mouth while the uvula is the tissue that hangs from the middle of the back of your mouth.
Your doctor will next conduct sleep studies on you to measure how your body responds to sleep problems and whether or not you sleep well. These sleep studies will greatly help your doctor determine if you have a sleep disorder and its severity. These tests are the most accurate in diagnosing sleep apnoea.
Polysomnogram or Home-based Portable Monitor
Currently, there are two types of sleep tests done to determine sleep apnoea: Polysomnogram and a home-based portable monitor.
Polysomnogram (PSG) is the most widely used sleep study to diagnose sleep apnoea. This sleep test records the activity of your brain, heart rate, eye movements and blood pressure.
A PSG will also indicate the oxygen level in your blood, chest movement, snoring and the movement of air through your nose while you breathe. The chest movement will indicate whether you are making an effort or not to breathe.
PSG tests are done in sleep labs or sleep centers. The test is virtually painless as it will only entail you sleeping with sensors attached to your chest, face, scalp, fingers and limbs. These sensors will transmit the pertinent details needed to diagnose sleep apnoea. The reading of the PSG result by a qualified doctor will determine if you have sleep apnoea, its severity and the best CPAP setting for the treatment and management of your sleep apnoea.
A split-night sleep study could be done as a further test if you have sleep apnoea. This study will entail you sleeping without a CPAP machine, and sleeping with a CPAP machine. This test will help determine the right amount of air pressure and flow from the CPAP machine.
A home-based portable monitor will record the same information as a PSG. This can be done at home. You will be given instructions on how to do the test. The results will determine if you need a full PSG sleep study in a sleep lab.
If you think you have sleep apnoea, call us now for more information.
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