Severe sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder characterized by an inability to breathe normally during sleep, according to WebMD. Sleep apnea can stop breathing repeatedly during sleep, meaning the brain and the body do not get enough oxygen.
There are two primary types of sleep apnea, according to WebMD. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common of the two, and it is caused by a blockage of the airway in the back of the throat. Central sleep apnea, on the other hand, occurs when the brain is unable to send messages to the muscles that tell them to breathe.
When left untreated, severe sleep apnea can cause additional heath issues, states WebMD. This includes high blood pressure, stroke, heart attacks, heart failure and diabetes. Untreated sleep apnea can also cause existing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder to worsen and cause depression. Some people also develop irregular heart rhythms, particularly if they have obstructive sleep apnea. Most people with severe sleep apnea also suffer from intense fatigue due to their lack of sleep.
Sleep apnea can impact individuals of all ages and genders, according to WebMD. However, overweight men over the age of 40 and those with sinus issues, gastroesophageal reflux disease or a family history of sleep apnea are at greater risk for developing this condition.