Dubuque health professionals see rise in sleep apnea patients - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Dubuque health professionals see rise in sleep apnea patients


Sleep apnea is a potentially dangerous sleep disorder, and health care professionals throughout the United States are noticing an increase in the number of patients, Pam Schmidt, Mercy Medical Center respiratory therapist and home medical equipment supervisor, said.

Schmidt said sleep apnea is linked to other health conditions.

"Obstructive sleep apnea does correlate with diabetes. It does correlate with hypertension. And it does correlate with strokes and heart issues." she said.

Jon Obe is a sleep apnea patient in Dubuque, who, for nearly 10 ten years, has used a machine called a CPAP, which stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure.

"I was super tired, hard to stay awake in the day, I had headaches in the morning," Obe said. "I went in and got the testing done, got on the CPAP, and when I woke up in the morning after the first test, I already felt better. It was immediate. I felt great the next morning, and I've been wearing it ever since."

The CPAP is a device patients wear at night to keep their airway open.

Not everyone likes the CPAP, however. It requires the user to wear a type of face mask at night, which is connected to the machine by a hose. A sleep apnea patient using a CPAP can't move around much while sleeping.

Schmidt has been a respiratory therapist for more than 15 years and said she's seen insurance companies cover more and more sleep apnea treatment.

"I think the insurance companies are coming about, and they're seeing that this is a problem and they need to treat it, because, if left untreated, you're going to start treating hypertension down the road, you could treat heart issues down the road. That's all linked to your obstructive sleep apnea," Schmidt said.

As a sign of increasing awareness of sleep apnea and diversification of treatment options, dentists are now offering an oral appliance to help treat the disorder.

"[The oral appliance used to treat sleep apnea] helps to elevate the jaw and open up the airway," Aaron Rauen, dentist and co-owner of Abbadent Family and Cosmetic Dentistry in Dubuque, said. "Just like if you do CPR."

Rauen said only in the last few years have dentists offered this device.

"I started in dentistry in 2004 when I graduated, and when I got out, sleep apnea wasn't even on the table as far as dentistry," he said.

The device costs between $2,000 and $5,000, Rauen said, depending on where in the country a person lives. In eastern Iowa, he said, patients are going to see the cost closer to $2,000.

That's about as much as a sleep lab test costs. Schmidt said one of those carries a price tag of about $2,200. That's not including the cost of the CPAP or before-and-after trips to the doctor.

Most insurance companies, however, do cover sleep apnea treatment, to varying degrees. Both Schmidt and Rauen suggested patients consult first with a doctor and learn about sleep apnea treatment options, as well as what that person's insurance requires and will cover.

For Obe, the CPAP has been life-changing.

"You get used to bad sleep, and you don't understand how much it affects you during the day until you start sleeping well again," he said.

Signs of sleep apnea include snoring, daytime fatigue and headaches. Medical professionals encourage people experiencing these symptoms to talk with their doctor about sleep apnea.

The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, under the US Department of Health and Human Services, has a comprehensive website about sleep apnea, including a short video explaining exactly what happens during sleep apnea.

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