Lately, it seems that Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) has been receiving more attention than ever before. It made the the list as a probable contributor to the death of Star War’s star Carrie Fisher. Recently, NFL Star Ryan Jensen spoke to the media about how his diagnosis of OSA saved his life and career.  So, what’s the fuss over OSA?  By now, most everyone has at least heard of OSA, but there are still many misconceptions about this condition.  Read below to see if you can tell fact from fiction.

Only middle-age, overweight men suffer from obstructive sleep apnea

Fiction:  While older and heavier men create the “classic” profile of an OSA patient, younger and healthy men can be diagnosed with OSA.  Besides Ryan Jensen, Tony Dorsett and Shaquille O’Neill are other athletes living obstructive sleep apnea.  Weight is only one risk factor for OSA.  People of normal weight and thin people can also suffer from OSA.  Tongue size or jaw, nose, and airway anatomy can also cause airflow to become blocked during sleep. There is also sometimes a heredity component to OSA.

Obstructive sleep apnea is often missed as a diagnosis in women

Fact: While OSA is more common in men, women are also susceptible. However, more women than men remain undiagnosed.   In some cases, obstructive sleep apnea is overlooked as a potential diagnosis for women because women don’t often fit the “classic” profile. Women also tend to complain of different symptoms.  A recent UCLA study explains that while men often report snoring and fatigue, women often complain of depression, anxiety or fatigue.  Actresses Amy Poehler and Roseanne Barr are two female celebrities who have OSA.

Obstructive sleep apnea can lead to other serious health conditions

Fact: Untreated OSA has been connected to many other very serious health conditions such as high blood pressure (hypertension), diabetes, stroke and heart disease. Some research shows that up to 1/3 of people who have high blood pressure also have obstructive sleep apnea.  High blood pressure and sleep apnea have both been linked to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.  OSA has also been linked to diabetes and obesity.

A CPAP machine is the only treatment option for obstructive sleep apnea

Fiction: It is true that positive pressure therapy is the most effective treatment for severe obstructive sleep apnea, but oral devices are becoming a more common option for patients that cannot tolerate CPAP therapy.  Oral appliances work by either holding your tongue in position or sliding your jaw forward when you sleep. Surgical Interventions may also be an option, depending on the cause of your sleep apnea. Ultimately, you and your doctor need to work together to find the treatment option that works for you.