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Snoring and Sleep Apnea: Physical Exam

Topic Overview

Your doctor will ask questions about your medical history to determine whether your snoring is simply interfering with your or your bed partner's sleep or whether you have sleep apnea, a potentially serious sleep disorder.

During your physical examination, your doctor will check your:

  • Breathing rate, heart rate, and blood pressure.
  • Weight. People who snore or have obstructive sleep apnea often have a greater amount of fat in their upper body.
  • Ears, nose, mouth, and throat, to look for conditions that might limit your airflow, such as bone deformities or enlarged tissues in your throat. Enlarged tonsils and adenoids are common causes of snoring and obstructive sleep apnea in children.
  • Neck measurement. People who have obstructive sleep apnea often have a larger neck than people who do not have the condition. The risk of apnea increases for men who have a neck circumference of more than 17 in. (43 cm) and for women whose necks are larger than 16 in. (41 cm).
  • Thyroid gland. The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland at the front of the neck. An enlarged thyroid gland may put pressure on the breathing tube (trachea) or be a sign of abnormal thyroid functioning. But the thyroid gland rarely affects the trachea.
  • Heart, to determine if you have heart failure.
  • Lungs, to look for lung disease or signs of heart failure.
  • Arms and legs, to look for swelling (especially in the hands and ankles) and bluish skin (especially under the nails). These may be signs of a heart problem.

Related Information


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerAnne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerMark A. Rasmus, MD - Pulmonology, Critical Care Medicine, Sleep Medicine
Last RevisedJanuary 20, 2012

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