ZocdocAnswersCan sleep apnea cause death?

Question

Can sleep apnea cause death?

My dad has sleep apnea and wears a mask at night to help with his breathing. Is there a chance that because his breathing is so bad during the night he could die in his sleep? I'm very worried because he's really the only family I have.

Answer

Sleep apnea can be a very serious health condition and it is often difficult to diagnose, so it is a very good thing that your dad is working with a physician who has identified the problem and is prescribing the BiPAP machine and overnight mask to help manage it. Sleep apnea can lead to significant health problems, including risk of death, which is why it is important for at-risk patients to be monitored closely by a physician. However, in your father's case it sounds as though he is being appropriately managed and has close follow-up. The risks of bad outcomes for patients with sleep apnea are most often the result of UN-diagnosed disease where patients may stop breathing in the middle of the night or be so tired during the day that they fall asleep while driving. The risk of either of these events occurring in someone who uses their BiPAP machine at night is much, much lower. In addition, regular follow-up with a physician can help patients with sleep apnea to manage any other complicating medical issues that can also put them at risk for bad outcomes. As a concerned family member, one of the best things you can do for your dad is to encourage him to keep wearing his CPAP or BiPAP machine at night. In addition, as with any patients with chronic medical issues, it is definitely important for your dad to continue with regular follow-up with his physician(s) to answer any questions he may have and for continued health maintenance.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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