Purpose of review: The purpose of this review is to describe the variability of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), both from a standpoint of underlying mechanisms and in terms of clinical manifestations.
Recent findings: Recent data suggest that not all patients with sleep apnea get their disease for the same reason. As such, no one variable is effective at defining which patients do or do not have sleep apnea. Identifying the mechanism(s) underlying OSA for an individual is helpful as it can help to determine whether personalized therapy could be developed based on an individual's characteristics. In addition, these underlying mechanisms may be helpful in predicting response to therapy and prognosticating regarding future complications.
Summary: OSA is a heterogeneous disease with highly varying underlying mechanisms. OSA has variable clinical manifestations with definable subsets having risk of particular complications. Future studies will be helpful to identify mechanisms underlying OSA using clinically accessible tools and then using these data to focus individualized treatment approaches.