For many people, persisting health problems present a daily struggle. Visiting specialists, trying different medications, and working toward a healthier lifestyle can take up a lot of time. Often, it can be frustrating to track down the root of a particular health problem — the symptoms that manifest don’t necessarily present a clear diagnosis or path for treatment, and too often, the root cause of the symptoms are never known.
That’s frustrating, for obvious reasons — but now imagine a person who has symptoms they don’t even know about. How is that possible, you ask? For many of Dr. Madan Kandula’s patients, it’s a story that’s all too common. As an ear, nose, and throat specialist (ENT), Dr. Kandula sees a wide range of patients who have some sort of issue with their airway. He refers to the two nostrils and mouth as the breathing triangle, and when something goes awry with that system, most people have no idea.
Many medical problems are immediately noticeable — a patient that suffers an orthopedic injury or even catches the flu will immediately seek medical attention. But for many people with airway issues, they’ve been living with symptoms their whole lives with no idea something is wrong. The body has been dealing with the issues so long that it’s adapted, leaving patients unaware there’s any underlying issue at all.
For Dr. Kandula, treating a patient like that brings both feelings of joy and sadness. On one hand, he’s ecstatic that a patient is suddenly able to breathe out of their other nostril after going their whole life without, and seeing their quality of life improve so drastically is very rewarding. However, he knows that so many other people are out there with no idea anything is even wrong in the first place.
One of the most common and detrimental ailments he sees people come in with is sleep apnea. There are a lot of misconceptions and misunderstandings about sleep apnea, with many people thinking it’s the same as snoring — but in reality, sleep apnea is a condition that causes the body to stop breathing entirely during the night, sometimes hundreds of times an hour.
For some patients, the body may only stop respirations 15-20 times in an hour, but for others that experience more severe sleep apnea, these pauses can occur every few seconds.
Dr. Kandula refers to these events as repeated torture that the body has just learned to deal with. Many times, sleep apnea and snoring can be the root cause of health conditions, and people have no idea because they’re afraid to seek treatment for their sleep issues. Depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, and even weight gain are commonly tied to sleep apnea.
So, what’s there to do? How can we help folks that go through this repeated trauma night after night? For starters, Dr. Kandula says just letting them know and encouraging them to seek treatment is a great first step. “You can be the last person to know [you have sleep apnea],” Kandula says on this week’s episode of Working Without Waste. Just like the folks with one clogged nostril, they don’t know how bad they’re suffering until the ailment is cured.
A simple one night, at-home sleep study can show how many breathing pauses occur, whether or not the patient is snoring, what their blood oxygen levels are, and more. Technology in this field has come a long way, and sleep studies no longer mean an uncomfortable overnight stay or a day off of work.
Dr. Kandula hopes to help as many people as possible identify and treat their sleep apnea and other airway-related issues as CEO and founder of his independent ENT practice, Advent. Listen to this week’s episode and you’ll hear about the many ways Dr. Kandula helps reduce waste in his patients’ lives by ensuring restful sleep to foster more energetic, productive days