Lifewatch: Sleep Apnea

CHARLOTTE -- There is a sharp increase in the number of children getting their tonsils removed, but it's not to treat tonsillitis.

The procedure is being done to treat sleep apnea, a sleep disorder that makes it difficult to breath.

Generally those who have sleep apnea are people who are obese, but it can happen to kids and kids who aren't overweight.

Caitlin Zurita is a healthy, happy 8-year-old.

A few months ago, Caitlin had her tonsils taken out.  For years, doctors thought she had severe allergies.  But really, she was suffering from severe sleep apnea.

Her enlarged tonsils were blocking her air passages.

Caitlin is among a growing number of kids getting tonsillectomies to treat sleep disorders.

Dr. Stephen Landers, with Our Children's House at Baylor is seeing a sharp increase, and says many of the children are misdiagnosed with learning disabilities.

"They're not getting restful sleep at night so they are having trouble behaving during the day," said Dr. Landers.

Post surgery, Caitlin's energy level has skyrocketed.  She can focus, sleep, and breathe better.

Doctors say this is common among children.  Kids with learning disabilities or behavioral problems are often found to be suffering from sleep apnea.

Reported by Kristy Ondo