What Is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is an involuntary cessation of breathing during sleep. The National Sleep Foundation has stated that sleep apnea is as common as Diabetes 2 and affects approximately 18 million in the United States.
Three types of sleep apnea exist:
- Obstructive – OSA (Obstructive Sleep Apnea) is the most common form of sleep apnea. Caused by a blockage of the airway sometimes caused by the dropping of the back part of the mouth during sleep.
- Central – In central sleep apnea the brain just signals the breathing to stop even if the airway if totally open.
- Mixed – A combination of the two
What is common with all types is that the individual basically stops breathing several times a night, sometimes hundreds of times, for minutes at a time with periodic gasps or choking. Typically the person is unaware of this problem because the stoppage of breathing is not enough to wake them up totally from their sleep. Sleep, however, is not total and the resulting effect is waking tired and staying tired during the day. So, this condition can go undiagnosed for years. Married people are sometimes more quickly diagnosed when one partner insists that treatment be initiated due to the loud snoring that often accompanies sleep apnea.
Some Indications Of OSA:
- More frequent in men than woman
- Typically in 40 years old and older
- More often in blacks and hispanics
- Loud snoring
- Daytime drowsiness – This can potentially lead to accidents at work or during travel
- Scalloped tongue
- Enlarged tongue
If Sleep Apnea Is Not Untreated What Can Happen?
If not untreated, sleep apnea can have serious life-shortening consequences such as:
- high blood pressure
- heart disease
- car accidents due to the driver falling asleep at the wheel
- weight gain
- memory problems
- and other ailments.
How Is Sleep Apnea Treated?
There are a variety of ways to treat sleep apnea depending upon the severity and type of apnea present.
- Positive Pressure Airway Devices such as CPAP.
These devices provide additional air to the lungs and have been proven to provide success for many patients. The issue is one of comfort since these devices are basically face masks with tubes leading to a mechanical device. Many patients start with a CPAP or similar device but end up discarding this form of treatment.
- Oral Appliances –
For people with mild to moderate OSA oral appliances have been sanctioned by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) and may be the treatment of choice for many people. Additionally for people with severe OSA, the oral appliance may be indicated if they are unable to wear or tolerate a CPAP type device. Oral appliances, similar appearance to a night guard or orthodontic retainer, move the lower jaw forward keeping the soft palate and tongue from filling and blocking the airway during sleep.
- Surgery – The cause of the obstruction may be due to enlarged turbinates, a deviated septum or collapse/narrowing of the nasal valve. Nasal surgery is highly successful in improving nasal breathing by reducing the size of the turbinate, correcting the deviated septum or enlarging the nasal valve but it normally requires the use of a CPAP type device post surgically. Other forms of surgery including the removal of tonsils, reshaping of the oral pharynx etc. may also be used as well.
Before any therapy is initiated it is important to have the appropriate sleep studies completed in order to determine the best course of treatment. These studies can now be done in the comfort of you home and results read by licensed sleep physicians. Then, and only then, should treatment be decided upon whether it be a CPAP type device, an oral appliance or even a combination of the two.
For further information or to find out if you are possibly suffering from OSA, and not even knowing it, please ask us for a Sleep Apnea Evaluation or Download Our Sleep Apnea Assessment Form By Clicking Here. This is totally complimentary but may end up being life saving…..
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