Apnea, otherwise known as sleep apnea or obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a common condition that should not be taken lightly. OSA affects one to ten percent of children, most experiencing only mild symptoms and many outgrowing them. Symptoms may include snoring or heavy breathing during sleep, restless sleep and irritability.
Untreated, OSA can lead to failure to thrive, enuresis (bed-wetting), attention-deficit disorder, behavioral issues, poor performance in school and even cardiopulmonary disease.
It is most commonly caused by enlarged tonsils and/or adenoids, which can be easily treated surgically. Obesity is also a contributing factor, as well as certain neuromuscular diseases and some craniofacial syndromes.
A family history and physical examination, sometimes accompanied by a polysomnography, will help determine whether the issue is caused by some chronic upper airway infection, adenotonsillar hypertrophy (swollen adenoids/tonsils), or some deeper abnormality of the nose and throat. Treatment will be determined from those findings.