Snoring or Sleep Apnea
Are you experiencing snoring, daytime sleepiness, morning headaches, and teeth grinding. These are a few of the symptoms that can be related to a condition known as Obstructive Sleep Apnea (or OSA).
OBSTRUCTIVE SLEEP APNEA (OSA)
Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a potentially life-threatening sleep disorder that affects more that 18 million Americans. OSA occurs when soft tissue and tongue collapse at the back of the throat creating a blockage to the airway resulting in loud snoring and periods of reduced breathing. The breathing pauses can last anywhere from several seconds to minutes, and happen as often as 30 times or more per hour. Ongoing disrupted breathing causes an imbalance between the carbon dioxide and oxygen levels in the bloodstream, which ultimately results in insufficient oxygen levels in the bloodstream.
Sensing this imbalance, the brain sends a message to the body, telling it to wake up to restart the breathing process. People with sleep apnea will partially awake as they struggle to breathe, and this is often accompanied by loud snoring or choking sensations. Because people with sleep apnea don’t always completely awaken during the episodes, they are often unaware they have a sleeping disorder and it can remain undiagnosed.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
- Loud Snoring
- Morning Headaches
- Gasping for air or choking sounds followed by silence when sleeping
- Unrestful Sleep
- Frequent Urination during the night
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Impaired concentration
- Memory loss
- Car accidents related to fatigue
- Gastric reflux
- Reduced libido
Experiencing one or more of the previous symptoms may be an indication that you are suffering from obstructive sleep apnea.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea puts individuals at an increased risk for hypertension, diabetes, depression, motor vehicle accidents, heart attack, and stroke. Stroke is the #2 cause of death worldwide and recent studies have shown that sleep apnea doubles the risk of stroke in men. In fact, the increased risk has been compared to adding 10 years to a man’s age.
To truly diagnose the condition of Obstructive Sleep Apnea will require a sleep study ordered by a board certified sleep physician. Based on the test results, the sleep physician will be able to accurately diagnose the condition. Dr. Barr will be able to assist you on referral if necessary. It will also be very important to inform your primary care physician about seeking a diagnosis for this condition.
Dr. Barr will work with your physician to create the best treatment. Depending on the severity and tolerance of the patient, there are several options available. There are four major treatment modalities which may also be used in combination with one another to treat obstructive sleep apnea.
This can include modifying diet and lifestyle to create weight loss and elimination of environmental triggers associated to worsening the condition. It can also involve positional therapy to move the patient from sleeping exclusively on their back to their side. Simple yet effective changes can lead to significant gains in treating your condition.
CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure)
CPAP machines are considered to be the gold standard of treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. The machine uses constant air pressure delivered to the patient via a nose/facemask to essentially inflate the soft palate open while the patient sleeps. The machine will automatically adjust the pressure based on the severity of the blockage to the airway. Although these machines work very well, they can uncomfortable and cumbersome to some patients, and thus have only a 50% compliance rate with their users.
Oral Appliance Therapy
Oral Appliance Therapy utilized dental device or splint that gently opens the bite and positions the lower jaw forward. This, in turn, brings the muscles and tissues of the airway forward, preventing the tongue from blocking the airway. The device is then designed to hold you comfortably in this position through the night.
Surgery in treating obstructive sleep apnea can consist of many different forms. The surgeon could take an approach to modifying the size and shape of the soft tissue at the back of the throat to create a larger airway. Another type of surgery consists of sectioning the lower jaw in order to pull the bone holding the tongue forward slightly. An ENT or Oral surgeon would be the source for more information on your options. With the right situations this can be a very effective treatment.
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