An obstructive sleep apnea diagnosis is the first step in getting treatment so you'll be able to have restful sleep. However, your journey only begins when you are newly diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea. There are several medical professionals you'll need to see who may be able to give you a hand on not only getting better sleep, but also on assessing your health. Here's who you should see and why.
An otolaryngologist is more commonly known as an ear, nose, and throat specialist or ENT for short. An ENT will order an MRI to be able to assess the structures of your anatomy to determine whether or not you have abnormalities that are obstructing your upper airway, such as polyps, tonsilar hypertrophy, or a deviated septum. If you do have any abnormalities, get a copy of the test results to take with you when you see other specialists, particularly the cardiologist. The otolaryngologist can offer treatment options for you as well as fit you with a continuous positive airway pressure machine and mask for your obstructive sleep apnea if your primary care physician has not done this for you.
A cardiologist is a doctor who specializes in the heart and blood vessels. After a diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea, it's crucial to be evaluated by a cardiologist. This is because those who have obstructive sleep apnea have an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases. In fact, the risk of heart failure increases by 140% for those with obstructive sleep apnea.
One of the tests that a cardiologist will likely do is stress testing, which is more commonly known as a treadmill test. In this test, you will be asked to exercise so the doctor can evaluate your heart before, during, and after exercise. However, if the ENT found any structural abnormalities in your upper airway, the cardiologist may instead perform stress testing via medication that increases your heart rate. This is called a chemical stress test.
An endocrinologist is a doctor who treats disorders of the hormone system, which includes Type 2 diabetes. Studies have found that obstructive sleep apnea interferes with the body's metabolism of glucose and can cause resistance to insulin. The reason is because sleep apnea results in hypoxia, which is a deficiency in oxygen that reaches tissues and this, in turn, decreases sensitivity to insulin. Tests for diabetes are easier than stress testing and only require blood work and a urine sample.