Tests and diagnosisBy Mayo Clinic staff
Your doctor may make an evaluation based on your signs and symptoms or may refer you to a sleep disorder center. There, a sleep specialist can help decide whether you need further evaluation. The evaluation may involve overnight monitoring of your breathing and other body functions during sleep. Tests to detect obstructive sleep apnea include:
- Nocturnal polysomnography. During this test, you're hooked up to equipment that monitors your heart, lung and brain activity, breathing patterns, arm and leg movements, and blood oxygen levels while you sleep. This can help your doctor rule out other conditions — such as periodic limb movements or narcolepsy — that can also cause excessive daytime sleepiness, but require different treatment.
- Oximetry. This screening method involves using a small machine that monitors and records your blood oxygen level while you're asleep. A simple sleeve fits painlessly over one of your fingers to collect the information overnight at home. If you have obstructive sleep apnea, the results of this test will often show drops in your blood oxygen level during apneas and subsequent rises with awakenings. If the results are abnormal, your doctor may have you undergo polysomnography to confirm the diagnosis. Oximetry doesn't detect all cases of obstructive sleep apnea, so your doctor may still recommend a polysomnogram even if the oximetry results are normal.
- Portable cardiorespiratory testing. Under certain circumstances, your doctor may provide you with at-home tests to diagnose obstructive sleep apnea. These tests usually involve oximetry, measurement of airflow and measurement of breathing patterns.
Your doctor also may refer you to an ear, nose and throat doctor to rule out any anatomic blockage in your nose or throat.
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