Obstructive sleep apnea is the most frequent sleep disorder. The prevalence of sleep apnea in the general population is 2-4% and the main characteristic of the disease is the intermittent cessation or substantial reduction of airflow during sleep, caused by complete, or near complete upper airway obstruction. Decreased airflow is followed by oxygen desaturation and intermittent arousals. The clinical presentation of the disorder is complex. Loud snoring with breathing pauses and daytime sleepiness should raise the suspicion of sleep apnea, but we have to consider this disease if the patient has therapy resistant hypertension, heart failure, arrhythmias, stroke, depression or memory problems. Family physicians have an important role in recognizing sleep apnea. High risk patients can easily be identified by the main symptoms and using the Berlin sleep apnea questionnaire. These patients should be referred to a sleep laboratory for polysomnographic assessment and, if necessary, for further treatment.
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