People who suspect that they have sleep apnea should first consult with a primary care physician or go directly to a sleep specialist. Medical professionals can expertly assess and evaluate the symptoms that you are experiencing and perform sleep apnea diagnostic procedures that are usually based on:
- Medical and family histories
- Physical exam
- Sleep study results
Here we discuss some of the most commonly performed procedures for sleep apnea diagnosis.
Medical and Family Histories
People with sleep problems should expect that during their initial appointment with their doctor, questions on their quality of sleep and how they function during the day will be asked. A doctor may also ask the frequency of snoring or the gasping spells experienced while asleep in order to evaluate their medical condition. It is also common for doctor to inquire about family histories to check if there is any family member who has been diagnosed with sleep apnea or if anyone also experiences the symptoms of the disorder.
As part of sleep apnea diagnosis, your doctor will inspect your mouth, nose, and throat to check for the presence of extra or large tissues. It is common among children with sleep apnea to have enlarged tonsils. On the other hand, adults with sleep apnea may have an enlarged uvula or soft palate. The uvula is the tissue that hangs from the middle of the back of the mouth while the soft palate is the roof of the mouth in the back of the throat.
Sleep studies are the most accurate tests to diagnose if a person has sleep apnea.
Sleep study is a test done to evaluate quality of sleep and how your body responds to sleep disorders. By going through a series of sleep studies, your doctor will be able to identify if you have a sleep problem as well as determine its severity.
There are different ways to perform sleep studies and these may include use of polysomnogram and home-based portable monitor.
A polysomnogram is the most common option used for sleep studies. It is a multiple-component test that electronically transmits and records physical activities while a person sleeps. It functions by recording brain activity, eye movements, heart rate, and blood pressure. It also makes available records of level of oxygen in blood, air movement through nose while breathing, snoring, and chest movements.
Polysomnogram tests are usually done at sleep labs. It is painless and allows a person to sleep normally except that there will be sensors attached to the scalp, face, chest, limbs, and a fingers to check sleep activity throughout the night. The results of the test will be reviewed by a sleep specialist to diagnose your condition and to effectively plan your treatment.
Home-Based Portable Monitor
Another option to diagnose sleep apnea is a home-based sleep test using a portable monitor. A portable monitor records some of the information recorded with a PSG including the amount of oxygen in your blood, air movement through your nose, heart rate, and chest movements. The results of using home-based portable monitor may be used to diagnose sleep apnea and will also help specialists decide if a full polysomnogram study in a sleep lab will still be necessary.