WHAT IS SLEEP APNEA?
There are three types of sleep apnea: obstructive, central, and mixed. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common form of apneas and is the only one our office treats. OSA is when there is partial or complete airway obstruction for an extended period of time that interferes with normal breathing during sleep. It is one of the most common and under diagnosed medical conditions today affecting more men than women.
WHAT ARE THE CAUSES AND SYMPTOMS OF SLEEP APNEA?
OSA is caused by continuous obstruction of the upper airways narrowing the respiratory passages. There are specific characteristics that may contribute to OSA such as, obesity, thick pharyngeal walls, nasal congestion, enlarged uvula, etc. When someone with OSA is asleep, the muscles of the nasopharynx and oropharynx begins to relax causing the tissue to collapse blocking the airway. As a result, the patient may begin to do the following when asleep: snore, gasp for breath, or experience insomnia .
HOW DOES SLEEP APNEA EFFECT MY OVERALL HEALTH?
Sleep deprivation plays an integral role in our bodies overall well-being. It can greatly influence a patient's immunity disallowing our body to release disease-fighting substances making us more susceptible to colds and viruses. The lack of oxygen in sleep deprivation can also lead to changes in our blood pressure. With little oxygen entering the airways our body compensates by constricting our blood vessels to increase the oxygen flow to our heart and brain. As a result, hypertension occurs increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Snoring has been shown to damage the lining in our blood vessels increasing the risk of clogged arteries.
HOW DO YOU TREAT SLEEP APNEA?
Certain devices can open up the blocked airways such as, Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) or an Oral Appliance that repositions the lower jaw. Both the Oral Appliance and CPAP are considered Durable Medical Equipment (DMEs). In certain patients, surgery with an ENT specialist may be necessary. For all levels of sleep apnea, treatment involves self-care. making changes in diet, exercise, and quitting smoking.
IS ONE TREATMENT BETTER THAN THE OTHER?
CPAP is consdered the Gold Standard of care and is often offered to patients with severe apneic events. This machine requires the patient to wear a mask at night to deliver pressurized air up the passageways to keep them open. Severe sleep apneic patients tend to be more compliant with treatment because they feel more relief and tend to overcome the side effects better.
A Mandibular Reposition Device is an oral appliance fabricated to keep your throat open while you sleep. The idea of the oral appliance is to bring the lower jaw forward.
Surgery is an option when all other avenues have been exhausted. Ther are many surigcal options including but not limited to tongue size reduction, weight loss surgery, Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP), jaw advancement surgery, tonsillectomy, adenoidectomy, etc. One objective with surgery is to widen the airways by removing tissue in the oral cavity. There are many other types of surgery an ENT specialist may suggest based on patient's case.