The National Sleep Foundation estimates that over 18 million Americans suffer from the condition of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Yet much misinformation continues to complicate the lives of those with this sleep-related condition because it is largely underdiagnosed.

To further worsen matters, the American Journal of Epidemiology reports that OSA is on the rise. Since OSA is underdiagnosed, those who most need treatment do not receive help nor proper care. Might someone you know have sleep apnea? This is a serious question that most people overlook, because sleeping disorders are often overlooked. Let’s take a look at three personal stories about how OSA was misdiagnosed, and how these three comments will shed much insight about this misunderstood condition, and how important it is to get treatment as soon as possible.

  • Sleep apnea may be inherited. Case in point: Adam Amdur, 41, of Sarasota, Florida, believes he’s had sleep apnea since childhood, but was not diagnosed until he was 35. He learned that inherited physical features may exist with his children, such as an enlarge tongue base or enlarged tonsils, and that these features may put his own daughter at risk, which it did. He says that understanding this condition allowed him to get early treatment for his daughter, whom he believed would suffer “years of slow incremental decline—physically and mentally.

Remember, up to 4% of children have sleep apnea, according to the American Sleep Apnea Association. “Absolutely, it can be hereditary,” says Shalini Paruthi, MD, a fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and director of the Pediatric Sleep and Research Center at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center in St. Louis.Snoring is not always harmless.

  •  Snoring can be more serious than you think.“Lots of people joke about snoring,” says Robin Simon, 51, of Chicago. Simon learned how serious after sharing a hotel room with a friend while on vacation in Italy; her snoring was so loud and strong that her friend believed it was unusually loud and asked Simon to get it checked. Simon did and learned she had sleep apnea.

Women have sleep apnea, too. Ask Tracy Nasca, 61, who wishes more people realized that women can have this common disorder. It took doctors 14 years to diagnose her sleep apnea because, in part, of her gender. It was once commonly believed that women didn’t suffer from OSA

  • Many people mistakenly assume OSA is a man’s disease, Dr. Paruthi says. But about 4 percent of men, and 2 percent of women, in the US have sleep apnea, according to the World Congress on Sleep Medicine. It’s very common for bed partners or family members to say someone is snoring loudly and chronically, or choking or gasping during sleep. That’s often how doctors discover sleep apnea, Paruthi says.

Sleep apnea should never be ignored. “I wish people knew that sleep apnea never gets better if left untreated. It only gets worse,” Nasca says. Untreated obstructive sleep apnea can cause serious health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and weight gain. Furthermore, complications can also include daytime fatigue which is known to affect everything from workplace productivity to car accidents on the freeway, and could further cause your partner to become sleep-deprived. In short, snoring issues should not be ignored nor taken lightly.