Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA)
When we go to sleep our muscles relax, including the muscles in our throat. In some people the relaxing of the muscles causes narrowing of the airways, which in mild cases causes snoring and in more severe cases causes the airway to collapse in on itself resulting in an apnoea or hypopnoea. An apnoea is where you stop breathing for a short time. A hypopnoea is when you under breathe. Apnoeas and hypopnoeas can result in dips in oxygen levels. This dip in oxygen levels is registered by the brain causing short awakening from sleep, resulting in excessive sleepiness in the day. It is estimated that 4% of men and 2% of women in the UK have OSA.
The signs of OSA include snoring and witnessed episodes of stopping breathing (apnoeas). You are more likely to have OSA if you are overweight, a middle-aged man, a postmenopausal woman or have a small airway.
It is important to treat OSA because the resulting excessive daytime sleepiness can impact on your work social and home life. Additionally, if you have untreated OSA you’re more likely to be involved in a road traffic accident. Furthermore OSA is linked with other health problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke and heart attack.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a long-term condition affecting the lungs. In COPD the airways in the lungs become inflamed, the air sacs in the lungs are damaged and excess phlegm is produced. All these things combined makes it difficult to breathe in and out. One of the main symptoms of COPD is breathlessness.
COPD is usually caused by smoking damage, but it can also be an inherited condition or caused by air pollution. Find out more about our specialist COPD service.
Obesity hypoventilation syndrome (OHS)
Obesity hypoventilation syndrome (OHS) is a condition caused by being overweight. In patients who are overweight their breathing muscles are unable to work properly, this is especially evident overnight. People who have OHS under breathe during their sleep causing their oxygen levels to drop and their waste gas levels (carbon dioxide) to rise. In severe cases the low oxygen levels and high carbon dioxide persist into the daytime. OHS causes excessive daytime sleepiness, headaches particular in the mornings, needing to pass water a lot at night and confusion. OHS is associated with high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke and heart attacks.
Chest wall deformity
Chest wall deformity (CWD) is an umbrella term used for people with mis-shapen chests, which can include scoliosis, kyphosis or a combination of both. Sometimes this is a result of another condition such as osteoporosis, or neuromuscular conditions. Some people are born with a chest wall deformity and some people develop it following surgery. Chest wall deformities mean the breathing muscles can’t work properly and this results in difficulty getting air in and out which leads to low oxygen levels and high waste gas levels, often particularly noticeable at night time.
Neuromuscular disease (NMD) is an umbrella term given to patients with long term neurological conditions such as motor neurone disease or muscular dystrophy. It means both the nerves and muscles are affected.