When a person`s breathing is repeatedly interrupted during sleep, doctors suspect sleep apnea. If left untreated, this condition may cause the person with sleep apnea to stop breathing up to hundreds times during the sleep, which means this person`s brain does not receive enough oxygen. Sleep apnea symptoms include morning headaches, load snoring, waking up with dry mouth, etc. Sleep apnea treatment varies from lifestyle changes, such as losing weight for example, to CPAP therapy and surgery. More detailed information about this condition, its symptoms, diagnosis and sleep apnea treatment options is presented below.
This condition is a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. You may have it if you snore loudly, and you feel tired even after a full night’s sleep. The main types of sleep apnea are:
- Obstructive sleep apnea, the more common form that occurs when throat muscles relax.
- Central type of apnea, which occurs when your brain doesn’t send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing.
- Complex sleep apnea syndrome, also known as treatment-emergent central sleep apnea, occurs when someone has both obstructive and central types of this disorder.
SLEEP APNEA SYMPTOMS
- Loud snoring (more prominent in obstructive sleep apnea)
- Episodes of breathing cessation (during sleep)
- Waking up abruptly accompanied by shortness of breath (may indicate central sleep apnea)
- Waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat
- Morning headache
- Problems with attention
- Easily irritated
SLEEP APNEA TREATMENT OPTIONS
This method, also used to treat the obstructive type of apnea, involves wearing a pressurized mask over your nose while you sleep. CPAP may eliminate snoring and prevent sleep apnea. As with obstructive sleep apnea, it’s important that you use the device as directed. If your mask is uncomfortable or the pressure feels too strong, talk with your doctor so that adjustments can be made.
Surgery is usually only an option after other treatments have failed. Generally, at least a three-month trial of other treatment options is suggested before considering surgery. However, for those few people with certain jaw structure problems, it’s a good first option. The goal of surgery for sleep apnea is to enlarge the airway through your nose or throat that may be vibrating and causing you to snore or that may be blocking your upper air passages and causing sleep apnea. Surgical options may include:
- Tissue removal: During this procedure, which is called uvulopalatopharyngoplasty, your doctor removes tissue from the rear of your mouth and top of your throat. Your tonsils and adenoids usually are removed as well. This type of surgery may be successful in stopping throat structures from vibrating and causing snoring. It’s less effective than CPAP, and isn’t considered a reliable treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. Removing tissues in the back of your throat with radiofrequency energy (radiofrequency ablation) may be an option for people who can’t tolerate CPAP or oral appliances.
- Jaw repositioning: In this procedure, your jaw is moved forward from the remainder of your face bones. This enlarges the space behind the tongue and soft palate, making obstruction less likely. This procedure is known as maxillomandibular advancement.
- Implants: Plastic rods are surgically implanted into the soft palate after you’ve received local anesthetic.
- Creating a new air passageway (tracheostomy): You may need this form of surgery if other treatments have failed and you have severe, life-threatening sleep apnea. In this procedure, your surgeon makes an opening in your neck and inserts a metal or plastic tube through which you breathe.
You keep the opening covered during the day. But at night you uncover it to allow air to pass in and out of your lungs, bypassing the blocked air passage in your throat
Mandibular Advancement Devices
A mandibular advancement device (MAD) is a dental appliance, similar to a gum shield, sometimes used to treat mild OSA. They are not generally recommended for more severe OSA, although they may be an option if you are unable to tolerate using a CPAP device. An MAD is worn over your teeth when you are asleep. It is designed to hold your jaw and tongue forward to increase the space at the back of your throat and reduce the narrowing of your airway that causes snoring.
Off-the-shelf MADs are available from specialist websites, but most experts do not recommend them, as poor-fitting MADs can make symptoms worse. It is recommended you have an MAD made for you by a dentist with training and experience in treating sleep apnoea. MADs are not always available on the NHS, so you may need to pay for the device privately through a dentist or orthodontist. An MAD may not be suitable treatment for you if you do not have many (or any) teeth. If you have dental caps, crowns or bridgework, consult your dentist to ensure that they will not be stressed or damaged by an MAD.
DIAGNOSING SLEEP APNEA
- Sleep study: In some cases, your doctor may provide you with simplified tests to be used at home to diagnose sleep apnea. These tests usually involve measuring your heart rate, blood oxygen level, airflow and breathing patterns. If you have sleep apnea, the test results will show drops in your oxygen level during apneas and subsequent rises with awakenings. If the results are abnormal, your doctor may be able to prescribe a therapy without further testing. Portable monitoring devices don’t detect all cases of sleep apnea, so your doctor may still recommend polysomnography even if your initial results are normal.
- Nocturnal Polysomnography: During this test, you’re hooked up to equipment that monitors your heart, lung and brain activity, breathing patterns, arm and leg movements, and blood oxygen levels while you sleep.