Stuffy nose? Headache? Cough? Fatigued? You must have caught a cold, or is it because the trees are starting to bud? If you’re not sure whether you have a cold or allergy, you’re not alone. In fact, often the symptoms are so similar, the symptoms subside without ever getting the correct answer.
Cold and allergy symptoms are very similar, and especially in early spring both are very common. The air still has a snap of cold and when outside you’re often caught without a coat that’s warm enough. Yet common allergens begin to appear in the form of buds on trees, fragrant early flowers and mold on leaves recently uncovered by the snow thaw. Even spring cleaning can stir up dust allergies.
With the symptoms being so similar, how can you know whether you have a cold or allergic reaction so you can treat it properly? There are a few subtle differences, as this Symptom Checker from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (2008) describes:
Is it a cold or allergy? Cold vs Allergy
|General aches and pains||Sometimes||Never|
How to Treat a Cold:
- Decongestants will reduce the swelling in your mucus membranes and allow air to pass easier through your nasal passages
- The pain relief medication ibuprofen is available over the counter. It is an anti-inflammatory and will relieve the aches and pains of your cold as well.
- Drink plenty of fluids, which help flush toxins and restore the body’s fluids lost from the dehydrating affects of decongestants.
- Get plenty of rest while your body combats the cold
- Make sure you take your vitamins to help boost your body’s immune system
How to Treat Your Allergy:
- Prescription Nasal Steroid Sprays decrease allergic and non allergic inflammation in the nose and can be safely used for a long period of time.
- Non-sedating antihistamines can reduce allergic nasal congestion when used alone or with nasal spray. They treat the body’s natural reaction when it comes in contact with an allergen by blocking histamine which causes swelling and congestion.
- Allergy Injections are for patients with long-standing allergies (that may be identified through skin or blood tests). Allergy injections, also called immunotherapy, gradually reduce symptoms and the need for medication.
Whether it’s a cold or allergies, it is important to treat your symptoms because they can lead to more serious conditions such as sinus and ear infections. If your symptoms persist, see your doctor. Your physician will determine whether or not you need an antibiotic prescription or another medical treatment. Plus, if you’re not sure if it’s an allergy, he or she can recommend you to an allergist who will work with you to pinpoint what it is you are allergic to and start you on the appropriate therapy.
When people have heart attacks, they most often have them during the day, usually between 6 a.m. and noon. Doctors believe that is because for most people the morning is a high-stress time of day. When someone has a nighttime heart attack it signifies that something unusual has happened because it is a time when the heart should be at rest. Now in a recent report, obstructive sleep apnea is being linked to nighttime heart attacks.
For years, Dr. Virend Somers, a cardiologist from the Mayo Clinic, has suspected that sleep apnea is to blame for nighttime heart attacks and strokes. In fact, more than a decade ago Somers and his colleagues showed that obstructive sleep apnea has a powerful effect on the sympathetic nervous system, and causes a high increase in the flow of adrenaline, high blood pressure and a lack of oxygen.
His report last year in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology is based on years of study in which Somers and his colleagues studied 92 people hospitalized after heart attacks. The vast majority of those who suffered heart attacks at night had undiagnosed sleep apnea. “So, perhaps sleep apnea is acting as a trigger for night-time heart attacks.” Somers said.
Although not considered conclusive since it was not a controlled study, this is just another of example of several studies that have shown that sleep apnea and cardiac problems are linked. A number of years ago the largest study in this area showed thousands of people with sleep apnea who refused treatment had 2 to 4 times an increased risk of cardiac events. Somers’ study is different in that it makes the timing connection, allowing physicians to suspect sleep apnea when a nighttime heart attack occurs.
Sleep apnea is characterized by repeated pauses in breathing during sleep, and unless a spouse makes the individual aware that they gasp for breath when waking from an episode, often the sleep apnea sufferer isn’t aware of the problem. Daytime sleepiness and fatigue, which are common symptoms, are sometimes not connected in the sleep apnea sufferer’s mind so the disorder can go undiagnosed for years. Once it is diagnosed however, sometimes lifestyle modifications such as losing weight and quitting smoking can be beneficial and there are also devices available that successfully treat apnea by keeping the airways while the patient sleeps.
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In a recent study conducted on golfers who were diagnosed with moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea, those who received treatment through nasal positive airway pressure (NPAP) therapy not only improved their health, but their golf games, too. It’s long been known that sleep apnea can cause daytime sleepiness and cognitive impairment, but never has it been so clearly demonstrated than by watching the golfer’s scores improve through treatment.
The research findings were presented last fall at CHEST 2009, the scientific assembly of the American College of Chest Physicians, and the study was conducted by Marc L. Benton, MD, FCCP a of the Atlantic Sleep and Pulmonary Associates in Madison, NJ and Neil S. Friedman, RN, RPSGT of Morristown Memorial Hospital. With obstructive sleep apnea, breathing becomes periodically blocked during sleep. The NPAP treatment uses special nasal masks that push pressurized air into the windpipe to keep it open.
The research showed the impact of the NPAP treatment on the golf handicap index of a dozen players with obstructive sleep apnea. The treatment spanned three to five months, and after 20 rounds of golf, golfers in treatment demonstrated a significant drop in their average handicap, from 12.4 to 11. The study found the best golfers, often older in the group, had the best improvements in their scores, dropping from 9.2 to 6.3 in their average handicaps. Twelve golfers without obstructive sleep apnea and who did not receive NPAP treatment were used as comparison, and showed no changed in their scores. In addition to reduced handicaps, the NPAP-treated golfers had significant improvements in their levels of sleepiness.
“Any golfer knows, when your ability to think clearly or make good decisions is compromised, the likelihood of playing your best is greatly diminished. Through treatment with NPAP, we can improve many cognitive metrics, such as attention span, memory, decision-making abilities and frustration management, which may in turn, positively affect a person’s golf games,” said Benton.
The NPAP is only effective when used properly and regularly, and it is reported that of men that use the NPAP device, only 40% are compliant, blaming discomfort, inconvenience, cost, noise or embarrassment as reasons for skipping the therapy. “Providers typically attempt to maximize compliance with the therapy by promoting its medical benefits or warning patients of the risks involved in not being treated.” Untreated obstructive sleep apnea can lead to heart disorders, lung dysfunction, high blood pressure and stroke. However, in this study, patients had a compliance rate above 90%. “The possibility of improving one’s ability to play golf appears to have been a significant motivation to improve treatment compliance,” said Benton.
If the hope of improving golfer’s scores is a way to encourage them to seek help with their sleep apnea, we’re all for it.
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In a new study out of Great Britain, researchers have uncovered a link between obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and floppy eyelid syndrome (FES). The study finds the factors that are shared by the two syndromes, and it is believed will help doctors better diagnose and treat patients as it gives doctors the suggestion that they should look for OSA in a patient when they find FES, and vice-versa.
The study was led by Daniel G. Ezra, MD, MRCOphth, of Moorfields Eye Hospital, London, England and published in the April issue of Ophthalmology, the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
FES is characterized by rubbery-textured upper eyelids that may flip while a person is asleep to expose the whites of their eyes. The patient’s eyes then become dry and irritated and may develop a discharge. It is believed that since Obstructive Sleep Apnea may impair the central nervous system, during sleep a patient may not wake up normally when breathing slows down or stops, or when their eyelid is subjected to extreme stress. This, combined with the belief that OSA patients may often sleep on their side, is believed to cause repeated pressure on the eyelid, which could be contributing factors to Floppy Eye Syndrome.
Dr. Ezra stated that “About one-third of the FES patients in our study also had OSA. The significant association of the two disorders was evident even when we considered and controlled for patients’ body-mass index (BMI, an indicator of whether obesity was a factor). FES is often considered a disease of overweight, middle-aged men, but our study did not find a patient cluster based on age, gender or BMI,” he added.
If you would like to read more from the study, visit The American Academy of Opthomology.
To find out more about Obstructive Sleep Apnea, visit Eos Sleep’s section.
In yet what seems to be another reason for parents to get their children’s eating habits in check, a new study conducted by Italian researchers found that obese children were twice as likely to suffer from sleep apnea than their more fit counterparts. The researchers studied a range of children of different weights, from those that did not snore to those with occasional snoring and habitual snoring.
The study compared 627 children who did not snore with 44 children with habitual snoring, and 138 children who snored occasionally. Of those children, 64 were obese, 121 were overweight, and 624 were normal weight.
It was found that 12.5 percent of obese children snored, which was more than two times higher than commonly overweight children, and three times higher than normal-weight children. Those obese children were more than twice as likely to suffer from the more serious condition of sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is characterized by loud snoring and periods of holding the breath. People who suffer from sleep apnea stop breathing dozens of times during sleep and may not breathe for as much as three fourths of the time that they’re sleeping. This can lead to severe health issues such as high blood pressure, heart arrhythmia, enlargement of the heart, stroke and long dysfunction.
Statistically, sleep apnea is as prevalent as adult-onset diabetes. During a sleep apnea event, the airway becomes obstructed during sleep. Unchecked, it can be dangerous because the heart is sensitive to oxygen levels in the blood.
The study was published in the May issue of the journal CHEST.
For more information about the symptoms of sleep apnea, visit Eos Sleep’s link to: Sleep Apnea section.
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Using EPA air pollution data from a number of different American cities, researchers have established the first link between air pollution and both hypopnea (under breathing) and apnea (pauses in breathing) during sleep. Also studied was the affect that increases of temperature play on these sleeping disorders. Known as sleep disordered breathing (SDB), hypopnea and apnea can cause temporary elevations in blood pressure, lower blood oxygen levels, and can lead to high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases.
In a study that will be published in the upcoming issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Harvard School of Public Health have explored the effects of air pollution and temperature increases on sleep apnea and hypopnea episodes. Using data from the EPA monitoring air pollution levels in 7 U.S. cities (Framingham, Minneapolis, New York City, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Sacramento and Tucson), they studied it against data from the Sleep Heart Health Study of 6,000 people from 1995 to 1998.
The doctors were looking to find a correlation between “the elevation in ambient air pollution with an increased risk of SDB, nocturnal hypoxia and with reduced sleep quality,” as well as how “seasonal variations in temperature would exert an independent effect on SDB and sleep efficiency.” Using the data, and taking into account certain seasonal variables, they looked at known SDB factors including a patient’s age, gender and whether or not they smoke.
The results were that this is the first study to link air pollution and sleep disordered breathing. Antonella Zanobetti, Ph.D, a researcher on the project stated, ’We found novel evidence for pollution and temperature effects on sleep-disordered breathing.” They also found that increases in sleep apnea or hypopnea “were associated with increases in short-term temperature over all seasons, and with increases in particle pollution levels in the summer months.” The short-term rises in temperature were associated with changes in respiratory disturbances, blood oxygen levels and decreases in sleep efficiency.
Sleep disordered breathing affects nearly 17 percent of the adults in the U.S., and many more aren’t aware they have a problem, since the episodes happen at night. If you feel you might suffer from a sleep apnea or hypopnea, because you’re experiencing some of the daytime symptoms, it is important to get treatment.
To get more information on how to treat sleep apnea or snoring disorder, contact Eos Sleep.
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There is a simple (and free) technique that researchers from Brazil have studied, suggesting that exercising the throat muscles may improve severe obstructive sleep apnea symptoms. These throat exercises, derived from speech therapy, seem to work because they have a marked ability to strengthen and tone the muscles of the throat, even reducing the circumference of a patient’s neck.
Sleep apnea is a potentially life threatening sleep disorder that is caused when the muscles of the throat collapse during sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common type of apnea and also the most serious because it causes the soft tissue in the palate, throat, or tongue to “obstruct” the flow of air as a person struggles to breathe while they are asleep. Apnea is particularly severe when there are more than twenty or thirty events per hour because it severely limits the amount of oxygen the person receives throughout the night. Carrying extra weight, especially around the throat area has been found to be a related cause of OSA.
According to an article last month in The New York Times, a study on the effects of specific throat exercises on obstructive sleep apnea patients was conducted by the Heart Institute’s Pulmonary Sleep Laboratory at the University of São Paulo Medical School in Brazil. Researchers split the OSA patients into two groups. One group was instructed to do simple breathing exercises every day, the other group was instructed to do 30 minutes of throat exercises a day, comparable to those that speech therapists employ. The motions included swallowing and chewing, sliding the tongue back and forth to front of the palate, and repeating particular vowel sounds quickly. This exercise technique may be an alternative for some patients to the most widely known treatment of sleep apnea today, the CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine, which is attached to a mask the patient wears while asleep.
The researchers found that after three months, the group that only did the breathing exercises had almost no improvement, while those that performed the throat exercises reduced the severity of their sleep apnea by 39 percent. Although the patients’ body mass index remained consistent, also noted was that the exercises reduced the circumference of the subjects’ necks significantly. The study also stated they snored less and slept better, concluding that throat exercises “significantly reduce Obstructive Sleep Apnea severity and symptoms, and represent a promising treatment for moderate OSA.”
The report analysis can be found at PubMed.org. For more information about the available treatments of obstructive sleep apnea, including a throat exercise program, contact Eos Sleep. If you suspect you have sleep apnea, it is important to get the treatment you need.
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Since its approval by the FDA a few years ago, the Pillar Procedure has been gaining in popularity as a remedy for snorers throughout the world. With widespread adoption by the medical community, many snoring sufferers are finally finding relief by turning to this procedure. Here are the facts.
Snoring is a complicated disorder, and there are many reasons why a person might snore. Causes such as a deviated septum, sinus disease and large tonsils are just a few reasons, and they are all physical conditions that need to be treated using specific methods. Another common cause of snoring is the fluttering of the soft palate while asleep, which can also occur with less severe forms of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). If that is the cause of a snorer’s condition, then there is a good chance it can be treated by the Pillar Procedure.
Worldwide, so far more than 30,000 people have been treated with the Pillar Procedure. It is a minimally invasive, simple and safe treatment for snoring and mild to moderate OSA, which can be performed in a visit to the doctor’s office.
The Pillar Procedure involves stiffening the soft palate and offering structural support, reducing the vibration of the tissue that is causing the snoring when the palatal tissue collapses and obstructs the upper airway. During the procedure, three small polyester implants are placed into the soft palate and over time, the implants, together with the body’s natural fibrotic response, provide support to the soft palate.
After the procedure, patients’ snoring is reduced or cured, providing relief to their daytime sleep deprivation symptoms. Eos Sleep is a leading provider of the Pillar Procedure in New York City, and has successfully cured hundreds of patients from suffering from their snoring disorders.
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Although home sleep apnea testing equipment has be utilized for a few years, it wasn’t until recent findings presented at the American Thoracic Society 2010 International Conference confirmed that used the home sleep test showed similar improvements in their obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) treatment as did patients who had their sleep testing performed in an overnight lab, making the idea of finding a diagnosis much more appealing to many patients.
Prior to the findings of this study, it was commonly thought that patients would have the most successful treatment if they stayed overnight in a lab, because they would be spending more time with a technician who provides education of OSA and the importance of its treatment, which would improve the patient’s compliance using the standard CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) device of their treatment once at home. Since many patients complain about the discomfort of the CPAP, compliance is difficult for many.
However, as this study found, of 300 patients who randomly either underwent their sleep testing in the lab or at home, 185 of them completed three months of follow-up treatment. The results of their OSA improvements using CPAP treatment where similar regardless of whether they had their sleep testing done in the lab or in the home.
Eos Sleep now offers home sleep testing equipment to qualified patients, and has found similar results as this study with its own patients who either under go sleep testing at the center’s overnight lab or at home.
A home sleep test is used only to diagnose sleep apnea, and obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type, as well as the most serious. It is caused by an obstructed upper airway in which soft tissue of the palate, throat or tongue blocks the flow of air as a person struggles to breathe. Since OSA symptoms can lead to severe health conditions, it is very serious and important that patients receive expert medical care and guidance. There are other physical causes of snoring and apnea, and since home sleep tests only diagnose apnea, a patient should have a thorough physical exam first to see if the test is right for them or if a different line of treatment is necessary. Even if sleep apnea is suspected, there are other factors that may make a test in an overnight sleep lab necessary.
Visit Eos Sleep website for more information about the home sleep test. If you suspect that you have sleep apnea or if snoring is keeping you from getting a good night’s sleep, contact us today to schedule an appointment.
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An on-going study taking place in Sweden has released preliminary findings that suggest that obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) may be an even stronger risk factor for coronary artery disease than diabetes, obesity, hypertension and even smoking.
At the European Respiratory Society 2010 Annual Congress last week, Swedish pulmonologist Yuksel Peker from the Skaraborg Hospital in Sweden presented his latest finding from the ongoing Randomized Intervention with CPAP in Coronary Artery Disease and Sleep Apnea (RICCADSA) trial.
Although the study is on-going, he acknowledged, he also stated “analyses of baseline demographics and comorbidity profiles continue to strongly support OSA as a risk factor for CAD.” The study was started in 2005 to analyze the impact of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) on patients who had undergone revascularization for CAD and who also had OSA. ”Not only is the prevalence of OSA ‘surprisingly high,’” Dr. Peker said, but “these patients do not always show typical symptoms such as sleepiness.“
OSA was found in 64% of those with CAD. Comparatively, 58% had hypertension, and 28% were obese, making OSA much more common that was before thought of as more “conventional” risk factors. In addition, CAD patients with OSA were older than those without, were more obese, we mostly male, and had higher incidents of hypertension, diabetes, and atrial fibrillation.
Dr. Peker looked at both OSA syndrome (or “sleepy OSA,” because of daytime sleepiness symptoms) and “non-sleepy OSA.” He found that the CAD risk increase was present with both types of OSA.
The good news seems to be that those CAD patients that were studied with OSA had better compliance to the CPAP treatment. Dr. Peker indicated, “if we ask the CAD patients to use CPAP so far, they appear motivated enough to follow treatment.” At this point there is no proof that CPAP treatment actually reduces the risk for cardiovascular disease, however Dr. Peker suggested that it should be thought of as a “secondary cardiovascular prevention method.” The final results of the study are due out in 2012.
European Respiratory Society (ERS) 2010 Annual Congress: Abstract 5374. Presented September 22, 2010.
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