Sleep Apnea occurs when air is unable to flow through the throat when a person is asleep causing a stop or pause in breathing. Because air flow is blocked, the condition almost always results in very loud snoring. It is important to have the condition treated promptly because it can lead to a host of other problems if left unchecked.

SLEEP DISORDERS

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive Sleep Apnea, or OSA, is a condition due to blockage of air flow through the throat while sleeping.

If gone untreated, sleep apnea can cause:

  • High blood pressure
  • Loud snoring
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Weight gain
  • Memory problems
  • Impotency
  • Headaches
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Dry mouth upon awakening
  • Nocturnal snorting, gasping, choking (may wake self up)
  • Insomnia
  • Chest retraction during sleep in young children (chest pulls in)

Definition Of Obstructive Sleep Apnea

The term apnea describes a complete stop or pause in breathing, while hypopnea describes a slowdown in breathing. Apnea can be further defined as central or peripheral. In central apnea, the nervous system fails to adequately control breathing, thus leading to irregular sleep patterns and decreased oxygen levels.  In contrast, peripheral apnea is due to the tissues (tongue, tonsils, and palate) blocking the airway leading to decreased oxygen levels. This blockage, or obstruction, is the cause of obstructive sleep apnea.

The character and severity of your obstruction sleep apnea can be determined via a sleep study. The sleep study yields information regarding sleep cycles, oxygen levels, and the number and length of the apneic and hypopneic episodes.

Obstructive sleep apnea is most commonly seen in middle-aged men. While the condition is made worse with obesity, it can occur in thin people. Most people with OSA state they are tired in the morning when awakening. While not all patients who snore have obstructive sleep apnea, almost all patients with obstructive sleep apnea are very loud snorers. The spouse or partner of the OSA patient will have observed the apneic episodes, and often report needing to shake or nudge the patient to “get them to breathe”. OSA patients will frequently wake up throughout the night.

While OS is made worse with obesity, certainly not all obese people have obstruction. A long palate, large tonsils, and a large or high-riding tongue are commonly found in patients with OSA and contribute to the obstruction.

I’ve been told I have obstructive sleep apnea – now what?

If you have been examined and a sleep study has shown that you have OSA, then treatment is available. If the degree of OSA is mild and you are overweight, then a weight loss program may be of great benefit. If the degree of OSA is moderate to severe, however, then Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) or surgical intervention may be offered.

Surgery is reserved only for patients who are absolutely intolerant of CPAP therapy. Surgery is a “protocol” or series of well-defined surgical steps to open up the airway. The protocol is comprised of uvulopalatopharyngoplasty, or UPPP, in addition to temperature-controlled radiofrequency ablation of the tongue base.

Snoring:

The noisy sounds of snoring occur when there is an obstruction to the free flow of air through the passages at the back of the mouth and nose. This area is the collapsible part of the airway where the tongue and upper throat meet the soft palate and uvula. Snoring occurs when these structures strike each other and vibrate during breathing.

Treatment depends on the diagnosis. An examination will reveal if the snoring is caused by nasal allergy, infection, deformity, or tonsils and adenoids.

Treatments:

  • Medication
  • Septoplasty (straighten inside the nose)
  • Somnoplasty (nasal turbinate reduction)
  • Pillar Procedure
  • Nasal polyps removed
  • Tonsillectomy / Adenoidectomy
  • Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty
  • CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure)
  • Oral appliance and life style changes (weight/smoking/alcohol)

Pillar Procedure is a minimally invasive, in office procedure for the treatment of snoring
caused by a flutter of tissue in the soft palate and mild to moderate Obstructive Sleep Apnea
(OSA). This procedure is completed in a single office visit taking about 20 minutes with patients
resuming normal diet and activities within a day. Is the Pillar Procedure right for you? Call the office for an evaluation.

 
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