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Sleep Apnea Diagnosis: Awareness and Tools

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) remains a significantly under diagnosed condition, despite its high prevalence. Primary care physicians play a pivotal role in identifying patients afflicted by this condition. To effectively diagnose OSA in primary care, increasing awareness and enhancing communication are imperative. Fortunately, several straightforward diagnostic tools are readily available, and even more sophisticated ones, driven by artificial intelligence, are on the horizon.

Once the possibility of OSA is considered, the next step is to ask patients about their symptoms. Questionnaires are simple yet valuable tools for this purpose. The STOP questionnaire comprises four key questions:

  1. Do you SNORE loudly (louder than talking or loud enough to be heard through closed doors)?

  2. Do you often feel TIRED, fatigued, or sleepy during daytime?

  3. Has anyone OBSERVED you stop breathing during your sleep?

  4. Do you have or are you being treated for high blood PRESSURE?

In conclusion, the diagnosis of sleep apnea in primary care is becoming more feasible with advancements in diagnostic tools and technology. However, it is crucial for primary care physicians to exercise caution in cases in which the clinical presentation is not straightforward or when OSA is associated with comorbidities. Care management and clear boundaries are vital to ensure effective treatment and improve patient outcomes.

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