What questions should I ask my doctor about my sleep apnea?


Sleep Apnea Doctor Questions

Whether you suspect you have sleep apnea or already diagnosed, it can be overwhelming on what you should be asking your doctor to help you better understand the condition. Before any doctor’s appointment, it is good to have a list of questions ready. And just in case you forget, it is good to have them written down.

I’m sure you will have lots of your own questions to ask your doctor. But I will provide you some good examples on what you can use.

I will break it into two sections, first will be if you suspect you have sleep apnea and the second section will be questions you might have after you are diagnosed.

Questions if you suspect you have sleep apnea

Can my symptoms be an indication of anything else?

This is a good question to ask your doctor, because multiple conditions can have overlapping symptoms. If being tired and fatigue is your main concern, there are lots of conditions that will have that symptom. Your doctor can order blood work, review your health history, and examine you.

This can rule out a lot of other things fast so you don’t have to just jump right into a sleep test.

Should I see a specialist? (if you are talking to your primary care doctor)

Asking your doctor this is a good way to know what to expect. If your primary care doctor is ok with initiating a test or is confident in diagnosing you, this can be a huge plus. I can take weeks or months sometimes to see a specialist.

If your primary care doctor does not have a lot of experience with sleep disorders, your doctor may want you to see a specialist. Even though this may take longer, at least you know you will be getting the right care.

What are some symptoms of sleep apnea?

You may have told your doctor about symptoms you are having that have you concerned and suspect a sleeping disorder. But something like sleep apnea effects so much of the body, the symptoms have a wide variety. You might have symptoms of sleep apnea that you didn’t think were related.

You doctor can name off symptoms of sleep apnea that you may have dismissed as something else.

What kind of test would you recommend? 

There are multiple sleep tests that can be performed. They can be at home or at a facility. Depending on where you live and your insurance/financial status, some tests might be more affordable or accessible for you.

The most important thing is making sure that you get a test that you know will get you the correct answer.

If my sleep test comes back negative, what happens next?

Getting tested positive for a medical condition is usually considered bad news. But when you aren’t feeling well, and tests come back negative, it can make you feel at a loss with no answers on how to get better.

Asking your doctor about any back up plan if your symptoms need to be investigated further can relieve some anxiety you may have. Just because your tests are negative, doesn’t mean you should just give up. A good doctor will keep exploring and have plans to help you get healthy.

Questions after you have been diagnosed

What caused or is causing my sleep apnea?

There are many factors that can have a person get sleep apnea. Knowing the reasons behind it can help better understand your treatment options. Things like age, smoking, and obesity have been common causes, but that is not always the case. Your doctor can give you an explanation that better fits you.

What are my treatment options?

CPAP, APAP, or BIPAP therapy will be the most common treatment, unless you have very mild sleep apnea. Even though this will be the most likely suggestion, it is good to ask your doctor all the different treatment options available. CPAP may not work for you, and it might help you better understand what the outlook is for other routes you may take.

Some good follow up questions to (if they weren’t answered already) is which treatment the doctor recommends and why.

Do you have any other concerns about what you saw on my sleep test?

Depending on what kind of sleep test you have, it will have a lot of interesting results. One of the main metrics that is being looked at will be AHI, but there are other things that some doctors may not always talk about but can be insightful. Things like oxygen levels, restless leg syndrome,  REM sleep patterns, and more.

With me personally, my doctor said even though my AHI was very high (48), he said what he was more alarmed about was there was a couple times during my sleep study where I stopped breathing for so long, by oxygen level dropped. That really helped me understand the urgency of treatment. And I can see not a lot of doctors volunteering that without being asked.

Talking over these things with your doctor will help you better understand your results. You may also want to ask to have a copy of the sleep test as well.

Do you have any tips on how to get a CPAP?

If CPAP treatment is recommended , you will be needing a prescription from your doctor to get your CPAP, APAP, or BIPAP. But beyond that, it can be a difficult process to navigate.

You will want to get as much information as possible that it relates to you. Maybe it relates to your insurance, not having insurance, or just financial questions in general. Or what models/brands your doctor recommends or wants you to stay away from.

Chances are this isn’t your doctor’s first rodeo. They should be able to help you navigate this process so you don’t have to do it blind. And it is a lot easier to ask about this while you are at your appointment.

Will my sleep apnea go away?

This is a great question. Your sleep apnea may be caused by something like obesity and your sleep apnea may be mild enough to where it might be something you can get rid of.

Whatever answer your doctor gives, it can help give you an idea what to expect and plan for.

What if CPAP doesn’t work for me?

This is another one that can help you better know what to expect and what your options are. In most cases, CPAP will be where they will start your treatment. There is a small percentage  where CPAP doesn’t work, and asking your doctor about what the next steps will be will give you a better understanding.

How long will it take for me to notice a difference after treatment?

If you get tested positive for sleep apnea, chances are you are tired, have low energy, and overall sluggish. And individually each person may have a laundry list of other symptoms. Some things can be helped immediately and some may take weeks or months to really feel different.

It will be good to know what you should expect so you aren’t disappointed when it isn’t an overnight success. This treatment takes persistence, even though most people feel much better after the 1st night of treatment

Conclusion

Asking your doctor questions can play a big part in you having a bigger involvement in your treatment. Sometimes at a doctor appointment, it is easy to forget good questions to ask. So writing questions down ahead of time is a good idea.

 

Dan

Dan was diagnosed with sleep apnea in 2017 when he was only 32 years old. He has been using a BIPAP machine for his treatment. He hopes to provide a patient's perspective on the sleep apnea experience. Dan lives in Tampa with his girlfriend and 2 dogs.

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