Sunday, July 15, 2012

Uvula isn't a dirty word!

...your what? You know...your uvula...the little thing that hangs in the back of your throat. This little sucker actually has some importance and it may tell you your risk of obstructive sleep apnea. Remember? I wrote about this before. People with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) have a 30% higher chance of having a heart attack, 40% of people with OSA have high blood pressure, 4x higher risk of arrhythmias, and a significantly higher risk of diabetes. If that doesn't scare you enough, there was one study that showed sudden death from cardiovascular causes between midnight and 6am occurred in 46% of people with OSA and only 16% of people without OSA!

Symptoms of OSA? There are a lot...excessive daytime sleepiness after having a full nights sleep, dry mouth in the morning, headache in the morning, falling asleep doing moderate activities (stopped at a light in traffic or watching TV)..even short term memory problems!

So, what are the risk factors for OSA?
Here's the check-list:
1. Overweight, typically BMI over 25 (Fat deposits around upper airway)
2. Neck circumference greater than 17" in males and 15-16" in women (Larger neck=narrowed airway)
3. Male (Men are 2x more likely to have sleep apnea, although women who are post-menopausal have  an increased risk, too)
4. Over the age of 65
5. Smokers (Increases the amount of inflammation in upper airway= 3x more likely to have OSA)
6. Family History (If an immediate family member has/had OSA, then your risks are increased)
7. Alcohol use (Alcohol relaxes the muscles in your throat, causing airway to obstruct. Usually, people who do not usually snore will snore if they drink alcohol...ever notice that?)
8. Narrowed airway (What doctors call the "Mallampati Score...look below!)

What's MY Mallampoti score?
Yes, I took a photo..:)
You doctor will look at your airway to see how "narrow" it is. This is called a Mallampati score. There are 4 "grades". Grade I means you can see your entire uvula, grade 2 is partial visualization of the uvula, grade 3 is barely being able to see the back of your mouth beyond your tongue, and grade 4 means that your tongue obstructs the back of your mouth/throat completely.
Go to your mirror, get a light and look in the back of your throat while saying "aaaaa" ...what score are you?

If you are concerned that you may have sleep apnea, you should speak with your doctor to see if you need to have additional testing...

Sweet Dreams!


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