Nosing Around About Sleep Apnea

This article was first published in The Jewish Week.

Adam Amdur with his wife Justine and their daughter (photo by Phil Blair)

Adam Amdur is resting easier knowing that his daughter is not going to suffer from obstructive sleep apnea the way that he did for most of his life. Amdur, 37, who was in ill health for many years, was diagnosed with the condition only recently. But he recognized the symptoms in his now 4-year-old daughter when she was only a toddler, and got her the medical help she needed to be able to breathe properly at night and, therefore, function normally during the day.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the decrease or arrest of airflow during sleep because of the narrowing or blockage of the airway. A blockage in the upper airway, or pharynx (the canal between the nose and the back of the throat), affects the collapsibility of the muscles of the throat.

Although all people can have occasional hypopnea (arrested breathing) episodes during sleep, those of us who have many of them on a regular basis have OSA, which can lead to many serious health problems. Often, the condition runs in families. Amdur realized only retrospectively that his ancestors almost surely suffered from OSA. However, thanks to his own diagnosis and his increasing knowledge about the condition, he is doing all he can to improve his health and to change the outlook for future generations of his family.

“Although OSA can occur spontaneously, there are several components that make it run in families,” explained Dr. Nanci Yuan, a pediatric pulmonologist and the medical director of the sleep center at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford University. She told The Jewish Week that the hereditary aspects involve facial structures, weight issues (being heavier set), genetic neuromuscular diseases and allergies.

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© 2012 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

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