Why Sleep Apnea Can Go Undiagnosed in AF

Why Sleep Apnea Can Go Undiagnosed in AF

If you have a patient that has been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, they’re likely experiencing palpitations, shortness of breath, and fatigue. But if their fatigue and drowsiness aren’t showing signs of improvement following treatment for atrial fibrillation, they might have another problem on their hands, sleep apnea.

Although sleep apnea is common in patients with atrial fibrillation, it often goes undetected or undiagnosed due to similar symptoms between the two disorders.

To better understand why sleep apnea can go undiagnosed in atrial fibrillation patients, ApneaMed has outlined each of these conditions and their connection.

What Is Sleep Apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that causes an individual to experience breathing disruptions throughout the night while they sleep. These cessations in breathing occur when the patient’s throat’s soft tissues collapse, blocking the airway. As a result, the individual is unable to breathe and often chokes, coughs, or gasps for air in an attempt to reopen their airway. 

Oftentimes the individual does not know that this is happening through the night until a partner informs them of their choking or snoring. Because of the constant breathing disruptions, the individual will feel unrested and fatigued even after getting a full night’s sleep due to the poor sleep quality.

What Is Atrial Fibrillation?

Atrial fibrillation, also known as AFib or FI, is a condition where an individual experiences an irregular heartbeat due to the heart’s upper chambers beating out of sync with the lower chambers. This condition can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure, and other heart-related complications, as well as leave the individual feeling fatigued or experiencing shortness of breath. However, symptoms of atrial fibrillation may not always be present.

Why Atrial Fibrillation Is Hard to Diagnose in Sleep Apnea Patients

A recent study published in JACC: Clinical Electrophysiology, shared that atrial fibrillation is often hard to diagnose in sleep apnea patients due to having similar symptoms — sometimes making it difficult to differentiate between the two conditions or successfully diagnose both if they are comorbid. 

Those with atrial fibrillation have a more difficult time staying asleep throughout the night, finding themselves waking up with a shortness of breath. Similarly, individuals suffering from sleep apnea will experience breathing disruptions while sleeping, leaving them gasping for air.

As a result, both conditions can lead the patient to feel unrested, fatigued, and lacking the energy to go about the day. Because of this, cardiologists may not recognize the patient has more than atrial fibrillation going on, and their sleep apnea may go undiagnosed and untreated.

Get Tested for Sleep Apnea with ApneaMed

Suppose a patient with atrial fibrillation is still feeling unrested and fatigued after undergoing treatment for their condition. In that case, it is recommended that they undergo a sleep assessment to determine if they have sleep apnea.

A fast and affordable home sleep study can be self-administered in the comfort of your patient’s home, making it easy and convenient to get their diagnosis. The sleep apnea test will be shipped directly to their home along with instructions, so they feel confident administering the overnight unattended sleep study on their own. While sleeping, the device will monitor and record their blood oxygen levels, blood oxygen saturation, breathing and heart rates, and more to gather important information that one of ApneaMed’s board-certified sleep physicians can review.

Upon reviewing the results of the sleep apnea test, our sleep physicians will provide the patient with a recommended treatment for sleep apnea, which will also help alleviate some of the symptoms they also experience with atrial fibrillation that make them feel tired during the day.

The most common form of treatment for obstructive sleep apnea is CPAP therapy, which will provide continuous airway pressure while your patient sleep — helping them breathe continuously throughout the night.

Contact our team to learn more if you have any questions about ApneaMed’s at-home sleep apnea test or our sleep apnea treatment equipment.

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