Nashville sleep apnea patients are at a high risk of death and serious health complications during recent and continuing periods of excessive summer heat.
Online PR News – 03-August-2010 – – The National Weather Service has posted an excessive heat warning for several counties in the western part of Tennessee and temperatures of 100 degrees or more are expected to spread to the middle of the state, affecting cities like Nashville. For many, these temperatures are uncomfortable, but for others, excessively hot weather can threaten their very lives.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2001 over 300 people lost their lives from excessive heat exposure. In the period between 1979 and 2003, more people died from extreme heat in the U.S. than from hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes combined.
But some deaths due to heat stress may not always be recognized as such. Patients suffering from sleep apnea who rely on a CPAP machine to help them breath through the night are at risk during periods of excessive heat. “It’s an issue of compliance with treatment,” says Nashville sleep apnea dentist, Dr. Don Lowrance, “Many people complain about moisture and facial irritation such as heat rash. Can you imagine wearing a plastic mask over your mouth and nose in 90% humidity?”
Patients may not even realize that they have removed their masks at night, and that can result in serious health risks. Obstructive sleep apnea or OSA, causes the airway to be partially, or at times completely, blocked by the tongue, a sagging soft palette, tonsils and adenoids, and for overweight people, excessive fat deposits in the throat and neck. CPAP or Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, forces air through the throat by way of a plastic or latex mask.
Under regular circumstances, according to an article published in Sleep Medicine Review in 2003, it is estimated that 5-50% of obstructive sleep apnea patients either reject or discontinue CPAP use within the first week because it is so uncomfortable.
Dr. Don Lowrance recommends an alternative in dental sleep apnea treatment. Sleep apnea dentists can help patients open their airways by using a custom-made oral appliance, similar to a night guard used by people who grind their teeth at night. “An advantage to an oral appliance for sleep apnea is your face is free of anything strapped on it or touching it. The compliance rates with this type of treatment, even in sweltering heat, are much higher than with CPAP treatment,” says Dr. Lowrance.
The number of deaths due in part to sleep apnea during times of excessive heat is unknown because, while it is estimated that approximately 20 million people in the U.S. suffer from sleep apnea, a large percentage of those go undiagnosed. It is also difficult to tell to what degree an organ failure, such as heart attack, was contributed to by sleep apnea.
“Going an entire summer with irregular treatment for sleep apnea is dangerous. Sleep apnea patients in these areas of Tennessee either need to deal with the discomfort of wearing their CPAP masks, or consult a sleep apnea dentist for a more comfortable alternative sleep apnea treatment,” says Lowrance.