Unveiling the Hidden Epidemic: The Struggle and Solutions for Sleep Apnea in Canada. In Canada, a significant number of individuals suffer from sleep apnea, yet a vast majority remain undiagnosed. About 80% of those afflicted with this condition are unaware of it, according to sleep physician Dr. Sachin Pendharkar. Sleep apnea causes breathing to repeatedly stop and start during sleep, but despite its prevalence, eight in ten Canadians with the disorder have not been diagnosed. Krista Biddiscombe, a 58-year-old who struggled with sleep for over a decade due to misdiagnosis, finally discovered she had sleep apnea after moving to Alberta in 2023. Using a CPAP device has transformed her sleep quality dramatically.
Many Canadians are unaware they have sleep apnea, which can disrupt sleep and increase the risk of other health issues. The disorder is manageable, though treatment costs and accessibility vary across the country. Sleep apnea comes in two forms: obstructive, where the airway collapses during sleep, and central, where the brain incorrectly signals breathing during sleep. It’s more common in men but affects around 5.4 million Canadians overall, with an estimated 80% undiagnosed.
Unveiling the Hidden Epidemic: The Struggle and Solutions for Sleep Apnea in Canada
Symptoms include feeling unrested upon waking and daytime sleepiness, which could lead to severe health problems like heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure if untreated. Advanced untreated cases might result in strokes, cognitive impairment, and dementia. For diagnosis, polysomnography is the standard method, measuring various body functions during sleep. However, not all regions have easy access to these in-lab tests, leading to the use of home sleep apnea tests as an alternative.
Treatment often involves the use of a CPAP machine, which keeps the airway open during sleep, though other devices like mandibular advancement devices are also effective for some. Despite some challenges in adjusting to these treatments, they can significantly improve sleep quality and overall health. However, the availability and cost of treatment vary, with only a few provinces covering CPAP treatments through government programs. This disparity underscores the need for better accessibility and affordability of sleep apnea treatments across Canada.
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