With many serious accidents recently being related to sleep apnea, there has been an increased call for more screening of people for the condition. However, a new review published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) questions the efficacy of sleep apnea screening.

It’s important to note that the study’s primary concern is that there is little evidence supporting the efficacy of screening. There are too few studies comparing screened populations and unscreened populations to see how people may benefit, researchers say. Overall, they say, there needs to be more research into sleep apnea screening and treatment that uses long-term, randomized clinical trials. This we agree with.

However, despite this lack of evidence, we have to concur with the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), which says that people should still be screened for sleep apnea, even if they don’t have sleep apnea symptoms. Here’s why.

Sleeping man

Sleep Apnea Symptoms Can Be Missed

One of the biggest reasons to promote sleep apnea screening is that most people who have the condition are undiagnosed. That’s because many people just miss the symptoms. Many sleep apnea symptoms are easily attributable to other causes, such as fatigue, illness, or even just “Mondays.”

If people don’t know that what they’re experiencing is a symptom of an illness, they won’t report it to their doctor, and therefore they won’t receive treatment unless their doctor is actively screening asymptomatic patients.

Sleep Apnea Symptoms Often Misdiagnosed

Another problem with getting sleep apnea diagnosis for individuals is that they are often diagnosed with something completely different. This is what happened in the deadly Bronx train derailment. The driver was misdiagnosed with low testosterone and hypothyroidism.

Doctors often don’t think of sleep apnea when considering the symptoms they are facing. Encouraging doctors to routinely screen asymptomatic patients will help doctors keep sleep apnea on their mind and will lead to more accurate diagnosis.

Serious Harms from Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea can result in many serious health effects, from diabetes to weight gain to heart disease to cancer. For millions of people in the US, a failure to diagnose sleep apnea is a death sentence. It is simply insufficient to wait until these people show up with serious, incurable health effects from their sleep apnea.

There’s No Harm from Screening

The evidence review asked whether sleep apnea screening actually related in harm to patients. They found no evidence that it did. This is because no one has really looked at the potential harm from sleep apnea screening.

However, sleep apnea screening has little potential to cause harm. Screening can be done economically. Positive screening just leads to the scheduling of more accurate tests, which has a modest cost. There are no health harms associated with these tests. Therefore, the total likely harm is a few unnecessary tests. That is far outweighed by the potential benefit from screening in terms of lives saved, accidents avoided, and healthcare costs reduced.

If you would like to learn more about sleep apnea screening or have been diagnosed with sleep apnea in Omaha and want treatment, please call (402) 493-4175 today for an appointment with sleep dentist Dr. Roger Roubal at the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center.