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Michigan Head & Neck Institute

TMJ Blog

06. 24. 2019

Sleep Apnea

Is Sleep Apnea a Disability?

man laying down

Today, over 18 million people in the United States suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, and some government studies indicate that it may be even be 50 million. Understanding the dangerous medical risks  that come with a diagnosis are important for many people who are either directly impacted or may be impacted in the future (OSA has a possible strong genetic basis). Visiting a certified sleep apnea doctor like the professionals at the Michigan Head & Neck Institute is the best way to see if you may have this potentially debilitating condition.

 

Disability Status

So, is Sleep Apnea a disability? The short answer is no. But the facts of the matter are much more complicated than that. The Social Security Administration does not classify sleep apnea as a claimable source of disability, but many of the problems that are associated with sleep apnea could qualify under the categories of heart problems, breathing disorders, or even the resulting mental deficit that accompanies Sleep Apnea’s impact on oxygen levels in the brain. Over a billion dollars are lost annually from business whose employees have OSA.  If you feel tired after sleeping or are known to snore a lot, a sleep apnea test is the best way to see if you have sleep apnea or are at risk for these complications.

One of the most dangerous risks with Sleep Apnea is the development of chronic pulmonary hypertension, which can change IQ, personality, and even lead to chronic mental disorders and death. These symptoms and conditions can severely impact a person’s ability to work properly and can be qualifying factors for disability through the SSA. While it is not considered a common result of sleep apnea, cases do exist, and you should monitor your condition with the help of a professional.

Probably the most widespread link to  Obstructive Sleep Apnea that can lead to disability from Social Security is “residual functional capacity.” If you can still work but only in a limited capacity, your RFC will reflect this. The SSA will look at your capabilities and consider if you are still able to perform your work or not, within reason. For example, a pilot or a machinist could be severely impacted at work by daytime sleepiness and typically cannot continue in that field. An accountant’s secretary can continue to work since their mistake is not deadly to anyone.

 

Treatment Options

Consult a professional for proper sleep apnea treatment, but there are plenty of ways to mitigate the effects. One of the best ways is to lose weight if you have these extra pounds. Being overweight is a major risk factor for sleep apnea, and other conditions associated with being overweight are linked to sleep apnea as well as diabetes and large neck size. Treatment usually involves the addition of a continuous positive airway pressure device or “CPAP” machine to your sleep routine. A CPAP machine facilitates proper breathing and restores adequate oxygen levels by providing airflow while you sleep. Other times, positional therapy provides patients with a way to sleep on their sides in a position that allows unobstructed breathing. In some cases, surgery could also remove some of the obstruction in the form of parts like tonsils or adenoids, or by modifying the jaw, soft palate, or tongue. For those who do not want the CPAP, an Oral Appliance (mouthpiece) can bring your jaw down and forward causing the collapse in the back of the throat to remain open for breathing in and exhaling out. The majority of people in the world can be comfortable with an OA but not with a CPAP. And the National Institute of Health now recognizes the safety and validity of an OA to control OSA.

 

Look at Options With a Professional

If you think your sleep apnea or its side effects are inhibiting your work, consult a physician to see if you qualify for disability due to an aspect of your disorder. They can help assess your residual functional capacity by monitoring your daytime sleepiness and oxygen levels. They can also provide ideas of how to restore your functionality through the addition of a CPAP machine, an Oral Appliance, or if surgery would be beneficial in your case. Usually, they have enough experience to also aid you by providing a diagnosis and reviewing your options for what to claim on a disability form. The professionals at the Michigan Head and Neck Institute have extensive experience diagnosing and treating sleep disorders and a consultation is the natural first step towards recovery or disability assistance.

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The contents of this website, such as text, graphics, images, and other materials are for informational purposes only. While there are many commonalities among multiple TMD and sleep apnea cases, each patient is unique. Information on this website should be used to educate the reader about what they should discuss with their doctor if they are suffering from the listed symptoms. The information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of your physician or you may call our office with any questions you may have regarding TMD or sleep apnea. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.


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