What Doctor Should You See for a Sleep Apnea Diagnosis?
When it comes to Sleep Apnea, most people want to start CPAP therapy quickly so they can start feeling better fast. But where do you begin? What doctor can diagnose Sleep Apnea? What’s a Sleep Apnea doctor called? There’s good news! Lots of doctors from a few different specialties can diagnose Sleep Apnea and prescribe a treatment plan.
Most people first come to their family doctor with their Sleep Apnea suspicions, and from there get referred to a specialist. Starting with a primary care doctor is probably the best way to start, because the primary care professional knows your history and symptoms, and can send you to the right specialist.
What Kind of Doctor Do You See for Sleep Apnea?
Here’s a list of a few of the specialists that can treat Sleep Apnea:
- Primary Care Physicians
- Sleep Specialists
- Ear, Nose, and Throat Doctors
- Pulmonologists (Breathing Doctors)
CPAP.com accepts prescriptions from a doctor or nurse practitioner with the following credentials:
- MD – Medical Doctor
- DO – Doctor of Osteopathy
- NP – Nurse Practitioner
- PA – Physician’s Assistant
- DDS – Dentist
Prescriptions are also accepted from providers having these credentials:
- ARNP – Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner
- FNP- Family Nurse Practitioner
- PhDNP – Ph.D. Nurse Practitioner
- PA-C – Physician’s Assistant Certified
- MO – Medical Officer (US Military Physician with officer rank
- ND or NMD- Licensed Naturopathic Doctor
- Otolaryngologist or ENT – Ear, Nose, and Throat Doctor
- MBBS – International (MB – Bachelors of Medicine, BS – Bachelors of Science)
- MBBS, FRACP – (MBBS, Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians)
Professionals with these credentials are not accepted at CPAP.com
- FCCP – (U.S. and Canada) stands for Fellow of the College of Chest Physicians
- RN – Registered Nurse
- M.S.N RN – RN w/Master’s of Science in Nursing
- B.S.N. – Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing
- LVN – Licensed Vocational Nurse
- LPN- Licensed Practical Nurse
- RMA – Registered Medical Assistant
- CMA – Certified Medical Assistant
- DPM – Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (Podiatrist)
What is a Sleep Doctor Specialist Called?
Some family doctors will refer their patients to a Sleep Specialist, who is a doctor that specializes in the treatment of sleep disorders. Sleep Specialists have all had additional education in the science of sleep, and have passed certification exams as part of their extensive qualifications to diagnose and treat sleep disorders.
Many Sleep Specialists begin their medical careers in other specialties and become a Sleep Specialist later on.
Does a Pulmonologist Treat Sleep Apnea?
For my Sleep Apnea care, I started off being treated by my family doctor, who referred me to a Pulmonologist. A Pulmonologist is a doctor that specializes in breathing disorders, such as COPD and Emphysema. Pulmonologists can also treat Sleep Apnea. Pulmonologists care for the respiratory system and can help manage respiratory problems in the following areas:
- neoplastic, which is treatment of certain cancers and tumors
My Pulmonologist had me take a home sleep test, and later diagnosed me with mild Sleep Apnea. When I was having issues with taking my mask off in the night, during my first month of treatment, the Pulmonologist provided me with a Sleep Coach to help me get more comfortable with my treatment.
I found that my Pulmonologist was very knowledgeable, friendly, and a very likable guy and most of his patients were Sleep Apnea sufferers like me.
How Do Doctors Diagnose Sleep Apnea?
Since Sleep Apnea is a nocturnal condition that only happens when a person sleeps, doctors need to have a way to monitor sleep activity to make a proper diagnosis. To do this, doctors use a Sleep Study to measure respiration, heart rate, breathing, and blood oxygen levels, among other things; to see what happens while a person sleeps.
Sleep studies can take place at home. A more advanced study can also take place in a sleep lab, and checks for things like the presence of other sleep disorders in addition to Sleep Apnea.
When the results of the sleep study are analyzed, the doctor can make a proper diagnosis. If a person gets diagnosed with Sleep Apnea, the usual treatment prescribed is a CPAP machine, APAP machine, or BiPAP machine.
The journey towards a Sleep Apnea diagnosis and the many sleepless nights leading up to the first conversation with a doctor are long and hard. But whatever the course of treatment from there, whether it’s PAP therapy with a CPAP, APAP, or BiPAP machine, you can be sure that finally getting a good night’s sleep will help you live a better life going forward.
David Repasky has been using CPAP treatment since 2017 and has first-hand experience with what it’s like to live with Sleep Apnea. He brings the patient’s perspective to the CPAP.com blog and has received formal training in CPAP machines, masks, and equipment.