What Is Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a breathing disorder that disrupts sleep. When obstructive sleep apnea occurs, the tongue is sucked against the back of the throat. This blocks the upper airway therefore halting air flow. When the oxygen level in the brain becomes low enough, the sleeper partially awakens, the obstruction in the throat clears, and the flow of air starts again, usually with a loud gasp.
OSA can cause daytime drowsiness, resulting in work interruptions and lack of productivity. It may even cause car accidents. If left untreated, it can also cause more serious problems like irregular heartbeat, heart disease, and high blood pressure. OSA also increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. People with OSA have disrupted sleep and low blood oxygen levels.
What Are The Causes Of OSA?
The common causes of OSA include narrow airway (usually caused by small/narrow jaws), alcohol, and obesity, deviated septum, large tonsils and large tongue.
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Sleep Apnea?
Some of the symptoms of OSA include:
- Day time somnolence
- High blood pressure
- Chest pain
What Are The Risk Factors Of Sleep Apnea?
Risk factors for sleep apnea include a large tongue, small jaw (usually lower jaw), large tonsils, deviated septum, obesity, and excessive alcohol consumption.
How Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea Diagnosed?
The best way to diagnose OSA is to obtain a sleep study (polysomnography).
What Are The Possible Treatments For OSA?
There are several treatment options available. An initial treatment may consist of using a nasal CPAP machine that delivers pressurized oxygen through a nasal mask to limit obstruction at night. One of the surgical options is an uvulo-palato-pharyngo-plasty (UPPP), which is performed in the back of the soft palate and throat. A similar procedure is sometimes done with the assistance of a laser, known as laser assisted uvulo-palato-plasty (LAUPP). In other cases, a radio-frequency probe is utilized to tighten the soft palate. These procedures are usually performed under light IV sedation in the office.
In more complex cases, the bones of the upper and lower jaw may be repositioned to increase the size of the airway (orthognathic surgery). This procedure is done in the hospital under general anesthesia and requires a one to two night stay in the hospital.
OSA is a very serious condition that needs careful attention and treatment. Most major medical plans offer coverage for diagnosis and treatment.
Are There Preventative Steps Or Measures To Avoid Sleep Apnea?
Exercise and keeping an ideal BMI is a good way to prevent sleep apnea. Reduction in alcohol consumption can definitely help as well.
What Are The Risks If OSA Is Left Untreated?
If left untreated, it can also cause more serious problems like irregular heartbeat, heart disease and high blood pressure. OSA also increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.