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Getting Treatment for Sleep Apnea

By Charles Hopkins Published 11/27/2007 | Health
If you think you may have sleep apnea, or your spouse tells you that you periodically stop breathing at night, the best thing you can do for yourself is to find a doctor in your area that specializes in sleep disorders.

Many people with sleep disorders talk to their family doctor about the problem and are referred to sleep studies at local hospitals or sleep disorder centers. These sleep centers then refer patients to a sleep disorder doctor from a referral rotation list. The doctor assigned from such a list may or may not be experienced in the treatment of sleep apnea.

These referrals are sometimes made to doctors who use lucrative sleep disorder billings as a temporary activity while they are building a practice in another specialty. Some of these doctors are not familiar with the variety of machines and masks that are available. They rely upon the medical equipment providers and sometimes create additional income for their practice with medical supply referrals.

Medicare and most insurance companies allow their insured to select the medical supply provider and almost all such reputable companies accept these insurances. Choose the most reputable medical supply company in your area, as they will be your supply line to the replacement parts for your sleep apnea machine.

To obtain treatment for sleep apnea you should first consult a doctor in your area who specializes in sleep disorders. The doctor will send you to a sleep study center where you will spend the night. During that first study the technician will determine if you do in fact have sleep apnea. If the first sleep study indicates that you do have sleep apnea you will do a second sleep study during which time you will be put on a sleep apnea machine.

There are basically two types of machines, the CPAP and the BIPAP machine. Most patients will qualify for the CPAP machine. People who have a problem with negative airflow during exhale generally need the BIPAP.

During the second study the level of the machines air volume will be varied to determine the amount of air pressure you need and the amount of air you can tolerate on exhale. If you need more air pressure to solve your sleep apnea than you can comfortably exhale, the BIPAP machine will be the recommended device. If you can exhale against the needed pressure, the CPAP will be the recommendation. Most people will only need the CPAP machine.

There are many different types and sizes of masks and nose pillow devices available for the patient to choose from and during the second sleep study the technician will help the patient choose the best one for them. Most insurance companies supply a new mask or nose pillow device every three to six months so you can try a different mask if you are unhappy with the one you choose.

Setting the machine is done by prescription from your doctor, which is one of the reasons you need a doctor who is thoroughly familiar with the variety of machines and masks available. The wrong setting can actually make your sleep apnea worse. Either too low or two high an air flow setting will cause you to not be able to use the machine comfortably.

Many people believe that sleep apnea is dangerous because it causes the patient to stop breathing. Without the machine many patients wake up choking. The real danger however is not as much the choking as from lack of oxygen in the blood. Lack of oxygen in the blood can cause a sleep apnea patient to NOT wake up choking. In fact lack of oxygen can put the brain in a coma and make the patient not wake up at all.

Your first week on your sleep apnea machine will be amazing to you. Your energy level will be much greater and you will no longer need that mid afternoon catnap. If you choose the right doctor and he or she sets you up with the right equipment it could literally recharge your life.