Sleep Apnea Treatment
Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that involves repeated breathing interruptions during sleep that may occur hundreds of times each night as a result of structural abnormalities or brain malfunctions.
There are two main types of sleep apnea: obstructive and central. Obstructive sleep apnea is the more common form of this disorder and involves a blocked or collapsed airway during sleep that may result in breathing abnormalities. Central sleep apnea is less common and involves a malfunction in which the brain doesn’t send the proper signals to control breathing during sleep.
Patients who are overweight, have high blood pressure, are older, smoke or have a family history of sleep apnea may have an increased risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea. Those with heart disease or history of stroke are at an increased risk for central sleep apnea.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
Many patients with sleep apnea may not be aware that they have this condition, as breathing interruptions are not usually remembered upon waking. However, patients with sleep apnea may experience:
Evaluation of sleep apnea symptoms initial evaluation of patients with symptoms suggestive of sleep apnea includes a careful history of symptoms of sleep apnea, as well as other medical problmes. A complete head and neck exam is to search for anatomic obstructions in the nose or throat.
Sleep testing with possible CPAP/BiPAP titration enables patients to undergo a polysomnogram sleep study either at a sleep center or at home. Your doctor may recommend a sleep study if he suspects you are suffering from obstructive sleep apnea, since this can help provide an accurate diagnosis.
Once the results of the sleep study have been interpreted, your doctor can create a customized treatment plan for your individual condition.
Treatment of Sleep Apnea
There are many different treatment options available for sleep apnea, depending on each patient’s individual case, including oral appliance therapy, mandibular repositioning and tongue-retaining devices, nasal sprays and surgery.
Many patients can experience significant results from continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines or adjustable airway pressure devices, which are used while sleeping. Connected to a tube and a mask that covers the nose, the pressure generated by the CPAP opens the tissues in the back of the throat, holding the airway open during sleep.
While treatment often begins with conservative techniques, some patients require surgery in order to effectively treat their condition. Surgery for sleep apnea aims to remove the excess tissue from the nose or throat that causes this condition. This can be done through procedures such as:
Somnoplasty of the palate and tongue base – Somnoplasty is a minimally invasive surgical treatment for snoring that removes tissue in the uvula and soft palate. The tissue is removed by releasing low levels of radiofrequency energy to burn away the lining of the soft tissue and eventually shrink its volume. This procedure helps to open up the passageway for air. Somnoplasty is performed under local anesthesia and is mostly painless.
Pillar procedure – The Pillar Procedure places small implants into the soft palate to gradually stiffen it and keep it from vibrating. This is done through a one-time, minimally invasive procedure that takes about 20 minutes in your doctor’s office. The procedure does not remove any tissue and it is typically painless with a very low risk of complication. The implants that are used are tiny and safe; most patients report them being unnoticeable within the palate.
Your doctor will determine which treatment plan is best for your individual condition. Patients can take certain steps to handle symptoms of sleep apnea on their own, including losing excess weight, sleeping on your side and using a saline nasal spray to keep your nasal passages open at night.