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Sleep apnea screenings under way in Shreveport

Kate Archer Kent

A Shreveport physician and board certified sleep specialist is providing free screenings this week for sleep apnea in recognition of National Sleep Awareness Week. Sleep apnea is a disorder whereby a person briefly stops breathing during sleep, and it happens repeatedly. According to Dr. Mary Beth Valiulis, in severe cases it’s akin to running a marathon at night. The body is wiped out.

“The oxygen that we get from the breath that goes into the lungs doesn’t show up. So, our oxygen goes down, our heart rate goes up, the hormones to get you roused to wake up get set in motion. Blood pressure can go up, too. Our brain stem says, Hey, wake up, you’re not breathing!” Valiulis said.

Valiulis is trying to raise awareness and encourage more people to get screened. She said information from the screening will help the primary care physician determine whether to order a sleep study. She said some of the symptoms are snoring, exhaustion and obesity.

“If their body mass index is over 30, and especially over 35, that’s a big risk factor," Valiulis said. "If they’re male and over 50, those two are also important.”

The National Sleep Foundation estimates 18 million American adults have sleep apnea. Valiulis said the screening is easy and painless. It includes a questionnaire and neck measurement. The screening is offered this week at Healthplex Family Clinic in Shreveport. Valiulis will review all of the screenings and provide information to the patient about their risk.