What is Sleep Apnea
Medical experts across the board agree that getting a good night’s sleep is key to maintaining a healthy mind and body. But for many people the idea of a solid eight hours of sleep every night is an elusive prospect. Indeed, the CDC estimates that between 50-70 million Americans suffer from a sleep or wakefulness disorder, such as sleep apnea. Sleep apnea literally means “obstruction of breath,” and is characterized by obstruction of the upper airway occurring during sleep.
The most common form of sleep apnea afflicting many people is Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome. This can be caused by airway obstruction due to a variety of reasons, including large tonsils, a swollen tongue, excess tissue and other reasons. Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome can even affect the nasal passages and jaw.
Sleep Apnea Symptoms
Those suffering from sleep apnea usually experience one or more of the following symptoms:
Risks associated with sleep apnea
Those who believe they may be suffering from obstructive sleep apnea should seem medical attention immediately, as it is a potentially life-threatening condition. If left undiagnosed, patients are at higher risk of heart attacks, strokes, impotence high blood pressure and heart disease.
Diagnosing sleep apnea
Those who make the decision to seek medical treatment regarding possible sleep apnea will receive a sleep test called a polysomnography. This is an overnight test that can be performed at home or in the clinic and involves monitoring brain waves and respiration, among other things.
Sleep apnea treatment
If a doctor diagnoses a patient as having mild sleep apnea, then behavioral changes are usually recommended. These include having the patient sleep on his or her side and losing weight. In certain instances a doctor may recommend an oral device designed to keep the airway open by retaining the tongue, elevating the soft palate or shifting the jaw.
Those who have been diagnosed with moderate to severe sleep apnea are usually treated with a machine called C-PAP (continuous positive airway pressure) that manually blows air into the patient’s nose.
Surgical treatment for sleep apnea
For many years, a tracheostomy – cutting a hole in the neck and inserting a tube -- was the only surgical procedure designed to treat severe sleep apnea. These days there are other surgical treatment options available to patients. These include:
Uvulo-palato-pharyngoplasty (UPPP)– this treatment involves removing the patient’s uvula along with excess tissue blocking the airway. UPPP has shown a 50% success rate in patients who have undergone this surgery.
Mandibular myotomy– this surgical procedure involves cutting a square-sized portion of bone from the front area of the jaw and pulling the tongue forward a number of millimeters in order to eliminate obstruction. This procedure is a success in nearly everyone who undertakes it.
These are the basic facts and treatment options for those suffering from sleep apnea. Those afflicted by sleep apnea should also consider the possibility their condition derives from a nasal obstruction due to a deviated septum or a collapse of the nasal valve. Of course only a medical professional is qualified to make such a diagnosis.
Lesley Inglin writes widely about issues concerning dental health. She feels that Dr. Chet Hawkins sets the gold standard for dentists in the Texas area.
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