Sleep apnea is a health problem that can affect you in many ways. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common form, more than 17 million people have it. Several treatment options are available and they are determined by what the cause is. In OSA, the airway becomes temporarily blocked multiple times during the night by tissue in the throat collapsing into it.
The number of nightly occurrences can range from just a few a night to more than 400 times. The airway could be cut off for a few seconds or well over a minute. The reduction of oxygen in the bloodstream leads to slow cell death in the organs and throughout the body. Complications of untreated sleep apnea may lead to heart attacks, stroke, high blood pressure, vehicle accidents from falling asleep, and more.
The treatment options for obstructive sleep apnea are both non-surgical and surgical. They include:
• A Dental Appliance
The dental appliance is similar to a mouthpiece. When properly positioned, it moves the lower jaw slightly forward. This keeps the airway from closing, letting you breathe safely through the night. It will also prevent snoring. These appliances are custom-made so that they are comfortable and effective for the wearer.
• Weight Management
One of the primary causes of obstructive sleep apnea is excess tissue in the throat. This is often caused by being overweight. When the extra weight is lost, the problem is often remedied, but not always. People of any size and weight could develop OSA. If being overweight is a possible cause, losing that weight should be part of treatment for OSA.
In some people, the nasal passages can become swollen or are too narrow. Problems such as allergies, deviated septum, polyps, and more can make it difficult to breathe. Surgery may be required. The type and extent of the surgery will depend on the anatomy of the individual. The recovery period is usually about a week.
Other types of surgery may involve the bone structure of the jaw, tongue, or palate. Widening the jaw may be helpful, as well as advancing the jaw. In some cases, multiple surgeries may be needed. In children, surgery often involves removing the tonsils or adenoids, which usually cures the problem.
• CPAP Machine
The continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) involves breathing through a mask that is connected to a pump which keeps pressurized air flowing through it. The pressurized air helps keep the air passageway open. It is the most common treatment for sleep apnea.
Some substances, such as alcohol or drugs, will increase the amount of relaxation that occurs in the throat. This will make your sleep apnea symptoms worse. Avoiding these habits before going to bed will help.
If you have had a diagnosis of sleep apnea, you can visit Integrated Ear, Nose & Throat in Denver or Lone Tree, CO. Our three friendly specialists, Timothy Pingree, MD, Clark Walker, MD FACS, and Jessica Specht, MD, can provide you with treatment options. Call today for more information or to set up a consultation.