Sleep apnea is a severe disorder often marked by abnormal breathing during sleep. As of 2020, it is estimated that more than 20 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, making it a significant health issue. You must be correctly diagnosed with sleep apnea before starting any treatment because of the severity of symptoms.
Unfortunately, sleep apnea misdiagnoses are relatively common, often due to inaccurate home test results or self-diagnosing. There are also three different types of sleep apnea: obstructive, central, and complex. The symptoms of each kind often overlap, making it extremely difficult to achieve an accurate diagnosis without seeing an expert and undergoing thorough testing.
How Is Sleep Apnea Diagnosed?
Only a board-certified sleep specialist/physician can diagnose sleep apnea. The diagnosis process typically consists of a doctor reviewing your symptom history, completing a physical exam, and finally conducting a sleep study. Sleep studies are a series of tests used to measure the quality of your sleep. They can help your doctor determine whether you have a sleep disorder and how severe it may be.
The popular and most accurate type of sleep study involves a Polysomnogram (PSG), which records eye movements, blood pressure, brain activity, and heart rate. It also records air movement while you breathe, chest movements, snoring, and even the amount of oxygen in your blood. The testing is completely painless and typically takes place in a sleep center or sleep lab. Once the study is complete, your doctor will determine which type of sleep apnea you have, how severe it is, and which treatment is best for you.
As a cheaper alternative to sleep studies with PSG, some patients opt for an at-home sleep apnea test instead. However, while they may be more convenient and even beneficial for preliminary diagnosis, home sleep tests can have significant drawbacks:
- Less accurate- PSG tests collect more data than home tests and are overseen by a certified sleep technologist
- Limited diagnosis- home sleep tests only test for obstructive sleep apnea, limiting the ability to test for other types of sleep disorders
- Underestimated severity- home sleep tests can minimize the severity of obstructive sleep apnea and may not detect rare types of sleep apnea (central sleep apnea)
How We Can Help Avoid A Misdiagnosis
Home diagnoses and not going to an expert are the most common reasons for sleep apnea misdiagnosis. If you’re experiencing symptoms of sleep apnea, contact us today to schedule a sleep study. Our team of specialists is committed to understanding each patient’s specific needs and providing the very best sleep apnea treatments.