Obstructive sleep apnea: from the beginnings, to the risk factors and to occupational medicine assessment

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Over the last thirty years, the pathogenesis of obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS) has begun to be elucidated worldwide due to the presence of standardized diagnostic and treatment. In adults, the clinical diagnosis may be suggestive of OSAS when symptoms like fatigue, lack of concentration, poor work performance, absenteeism, daytime sleepiness, insomnia, snoring, nocturnal respiratory distress or apnea episodes witnessed by others are present. Some medical conditions found in employees’ personal history such as craniofacial abnormalities, some endocrine diseases, arterial hypertension, especially resistant arterial hypertension, coronary artery disease, atrial fibrillation, congestive heart failure, stroke, obesity, diabetes mellitus, cognitive dysfunction or mental disorders may be the alarm signal for OSAS. The assessment of all risk factors, clinical presentation and diagnosis must become an important part of occupational medical examinations and performed in all workers due to its major public health potential and impact on survival. The early identification of OSAS among workers performed by the occupational physician can potentially reduce the risk of work injuries and fatalities. In conclusion, OSAS is a complex entity and an important public health problem. The delay in diagnosis and treatment contributes to the increase of healthcare services demand and implicitly to general mortality.

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