Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Finding the Face of Sleep Apnea

Do you look like you have obstructive sleep apnea? The evidence may be in your photograph.

Australian researchers are developing a “photographic analysis technique” to predict a person’s risk for sleep apnea. They take a digital photo of your head and neck from the front and from the side. The photos are examined using image analysis software. Then computations are made to measure specific aspects of the face and neck.

Their study in the Jan. 1 issue of the journal Sleep shows that people with sleep apnea may have distinct features. These include a shorter jaw, wider and flatter mid and lower face, and more soft tissues or fat deposits on the front of the neck. The findings were unrelated to differences in obesity.

another study in the same issue of Sleep they tested their new method to see if it could predict whether or not a person has sleep apnea. They found that it was correct about 76 percent of the time.

They caution that the method needs to be validated further. It also needs to be tested on other ethnic groups; 96 percent of study subjects were white.

Yet the new technique is promising. It is safe and could become widely available. It could help sleep specialists determine who is most at risk for sleep apnea. An
overnight sleep study or a home sleep test can then confirm the presence and severity of sleep apnea.

There is one drawback for some men; the photo technique won’t work if you have too much facial hair.

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