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How is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) risk evaluated?

You can first evaluate your risk for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) by yourself. Signs of OSA include snoring and daytime sleepiness. If you sleep with a partner he or she can confirm if you're snoring. Obesity predisposes individuals to OSA, but it is not the only cause. Your doctor may need to perform further examination to determine the risk of OSA, including measuring neck circumference and performing a thorough exam of the nose and throat. Sometimes a sleep study may need to be ordered to further evaluate for OSA.
To evaluate your risk of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), your doctor will review your health history and current symptoms. If necessary, your doctor may arrange for one of the following:
  • Consultation with a sleep specialist. A sleep specialist is a doctor with specialty certification in sleep medicine. Sleep specialists have advanced training in testing, diagnosis, management, and prevention of all types of sleep-related disorders.
  • Polysomnogram. The best study for diagnosing OSA is a polysomnogram, which is performed in a sleep lab. During this overnight test, electrodes (sticky patches), an oxygen probe, and other sensors record information while you sleep. The study has two purposes:
  • Diagnosing OSA. The test measures apneas and hypopneas, confirms whether you have OSA, and shows how serious the problem is.
  • Finding the best settings for treatment. If you have OSA, the best treatment is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). In the sleep lab, the technician finds the best CPAP settings for you.
  • If OSA can be diagnosed during your first few hours of sleep in the lab, then the treatment settings can also be tested the same night. If not, you will have two different nights in the sleep lab -- the first night to diagnose OSA and the second night to adjust treatment settings.
  • Home oximetry. In some cases, your doctor may arrange for home oximetry. This test uses a small device to monitor the oxygen level in your blood while you sleep. If your blood oxygen level repeatedly dips below a certain level, you might be experiencing OSA. Based on your results, your doctor may recommend further testing.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.