In December of 2016, the world lost one of its most beloved and iconic actresses when Carrie Fisher passed away. Fisher was just 60 years old, leaving many to question what caused her untimely death. Recently, the Los Angeles County medical examiner’s office released a summary of its findings.
The LA coroner determined that obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) was a factor in Carrie Fisher’s death. At our San Francisco, CA practice, Bay Area Sleep and Breathing Solutions, obstructed sleep apnea is one condition we treat.
Obstructed sleep apnea blocks patients airways while they sleep, causing them to stop breathing several times throughout the night. The revelation that OSA was a contributing factor in Carrie Fisher’s death serves as a reminder of the real risks of death from sleep apnea.
What Is OSA?
OSA, or obstructed sleep apnea, is a form of sleep-disordered breathing. This medical condition is one of the most widely under-diagnosed, but is actually quite common. Obstructed sleep apnea occurs when the muscles that support the throat become slack while a patient sleeps. The muscles relax so much that they actually block the person’s airways and prevent breathing.
When breathing stops, the body suddenly wakes up so that breathing can resume. This happens repeatedly throughout the night, preventing the patient from getting a restful night’s sleep. Although the patient is likely to feel tired and worn down the next day, they probably won’t remember waking up throughout the night, which is why many do not seek appropriate treatment.
Risks of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is a condition that many fail to take seriously. But, as Carrie Fisher’s death reminds us, it can be very dangerous. In addition to making a person feel unrested and irritable, OSA prevents the body from getting the oxygen it needs. Improper blood oxygen saturation can have a significant impact on a person’s overall health. Below are some medical conditions that have been associated with OSA:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Weight gain and obesity
- Adult asthma
- Gastric reflux
With the known risks of sleep apnea, it should not be surprising that medical studies have found that the mortality risk of untreated OSA is high, regardless of a person’s age, sex, or BMI.
While the risks of OSA are high, patients can minimize those risks by receiving appropriate treatment for the condition. Our doctors are committed to relieving patients of sleep apnea. We offer surgical and non-surgical treatments that can open patients’ airways so that they can breathe comfortably and sleep through the night. We recommend the most appropriate treatment method for each of our patients after examining the anatomy of the upper airway and having the patient complete an at-home sleeping test.
If you suspect that you are suffering from sleep apnea, it is important to receive an accurate diagnosis so that treatment can begin. Contact us at your earliest convenience to schedule a diagnostic exam and learn about the non-invasive and minimally invasive therapy methods offered at Bay Area Sleep and Breathing Solutions.