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Sleep Apnea Overview

Epidemiology: Obstructive Sleep Apnea

According to some studies, an estimated 18 million American adults suffer from OSA. Of these, more than 50% of these individuals also suffer from being overweight. There is also evidence which suggests that anywhere between 1 to 5% of adults in Western countries have undiagnosed OSA syndrome. This works out to roughly 1 in 50 people, or 5.4 million people in the United States who have undiagnosed OSA. It has also been shown that the chances for developing OSA are higher if someone in your family already has sleep apnea, leading some to believe that there could be a genetic link between people suffering from OSA. There is also an increased risk of OSA in people who have smaller air passages in either their noses, mouths, or throats. This may be due to the shape of these structures, allergies, or other medical conditions in these areas.

Prevalence Related to Ethnicity

According to the NHLBI, African Americans, Hispanics, and Pacific Islanders have a higher chance of developing OSA than Caucasians because they are more likely to be overweight.

Prevalence Related to Gender

OSA is far more common amongst men. The NHLBI reports that approximately 1 out of 25 middle-aged men, and approximately 1 out of 50 middle-aged women will suffer from OSA.

Prevalence Related to Age

There is strong evidence which suggests that age plays a significant factor in who will get OSA. The older a person is, the higher their chances for developing OSA. At least 1 out 10 people over the age of 65 suffer from some degree of OSA. It is also believed that women are at a higher risk following menopause. Small children can also develop OSA, especially in cases where the child has enlarged tonsil tissues in the throat.

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