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Sleep Apnea In Children: Symptoms And Treatment

Author : Rufina Goldsby

Sleep apnea in children is a very common form of sleep disorder, with the most common type being Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome. This disorder is characterized by repeated episodes of obstruction in the upper airways that occur only while sleeping, causing the child to momentarily stop breathing, thus reducing the blood oxygen saturation.

The most common symptoms associated with obstructive apnea are excessive daytime sleepiness, caused by a fretful night of sleep, and frequent episodes of obstructed breathing during sleep. Usually the patient is unaware of these pauses in breathing; however, his or her parents are usually well aware of the problem. Other symptoms associated with sleep apnea in children include:

* Loud, even squeaky snoring
* Gasping or choking noises while sleeping
* Restless sleep
* Irregular breathing which can be heavy at times
* Frequent episodes of bed-wetting
* Nightmares or bad dreams
* Sleeping primarily with mouth open, causing a very dry mouth upon awakening
* Chest retraction (a condition in which the chest pulls inward during sleep)
* Morning headaches
* Irritability and changes in personality
* Difficulty concentrating on even simple tasks
* Anxiety or depression
* Frequent upper respiratory infections
* Hyperactive behavior

Sleep apnea in children is not to take lightly; in fact, if untreated it can lead to potentially life threatening conditions. The risks of untreated sleep apnea in children include:

Learning Problems - Lack of sleep caused by apnea can lead to difficulties concentrating which will severely impact the child's learning ability.
Behavior Problems - Sleep apnea in children has been linked to hyperactivity disorders and a number of other behavior problems.
Personality changes - Lack of sleep can cause anxiety and depression, along with constant, unexplained irritability.
Developmental Problems - This disorder can interfere with development and may have an impact on the child's ability to form relationships.
Heart Problems - Repeated episodes of apnea can cause high blood pressure, which can lead to serious heart problems over time if left untreated.

In many cases, sleep apnea in children can be remedied by removing the tonsils or adenoids that are causing the obstruction, but if that treatment fails to remedy the problem, there are a number of other available treatment options. These include:

CPAP Breathing Machine - A CPAP, or "continuous positive airway pressure," machine is used by the child at night. This machine delivers a steady stream of air into the airway to prevent obstructions and is the most popular form of treatment.
Bi-Level Breathing Machine - This machine is similar to a CPAP breathing machine, but is used primarily for more serious cases.
Weight Management - If your child is overweight your doctor may prescribe a special diet and exercises to help remedy the problem before it degenerates further.

Coping with sleep apnea in children can be quite a challenge, but doctors agree that with proper treatment, the condition can be well-managed and usually presents little danger.

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Learn more about sleep apnea in children and discover the latest information about the various treatments available for this disorder.

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Submitted : 2011-01-05    Word Count : 870    Times Viewed: 138