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Meet Dr. Stephanie Wappel, Sleep and Pulmonary Physician

September 14, 2020
Having to find a new healthcare provider can be a daunting task. It’s difficult to know whether the provider will be a good fit for you from just a biography and a photo online. In the series, “What’s Up, Dr. Dovec?” GBMC bariatric surgeon, Elizabeth Dovec, MD, FACS, FASMB, interviews providers across the GBMC HealthCare System so you can get to know them on a personal level and learn more about their specialties.

In this episode, Dr. Dovec interviews Stephanie Wappel, MD, a sleep and pulmonary medicine physician at GBMC Health Partners Pulmonary & Sleep Medicine. They discussed sleep apnea, a condition that often goes undiagnosed but that can have a significant impact on your health and quality of life.

“The factors that increase your risk of obstructive sleep apnea include high blood pressure, a BMI over 35, being age 50 or older, a neck circumference of 17 inches or more in men and 16 inches or more in women, and being male,” explained Dr. Wappel. “Some of the common indicators of sleep apnea are snoring, being tired during the day, and waking up gasping for air while sleeping. Fortunately, we have a wide range of treatment options to help people with this condition.”

The process of diagnosing sleep apnea begins with a sleep study, which can be conducted at home or at GBMC’s sleep lab. For the home test, a device will be mailed to you and you wear it while sleeping for two nights, then mail it back to GBMC. The device tracks your breathing, blood oxygen levels, and whether you snore or gasp in your sleep.

If you are diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, there are several different types of treatment. The choice of treatment is based on how many times your airway collapses while sleeping, an indicator of the severity of your condition.

“CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) devices are the most effective treatment for most patients,” said Dr. Wappel. “There are also mouthguards that reposition the jaw to help keep your airway open. In cases of severe obstructive sleep apnea, surgical treatments can be effective. We work with all our patients to figure out what option will work best for them.”

Lifestyle changes, especially losing weight if you are overweight, can also lessen the severity of sleep apnea symptoms. “Losing weight can make a big difference and can lead to near or complete resolution of sleep apnea,” added Dr. Wappel.
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