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Sleep Apnea Health Problems and Treatment Options

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is one of the most common and under diagnosed sleep disorders. Individual’s suffering from sleep apnea repeatedly stops and starts breathing during a night of sleep. Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder which occurs when a person’s breathing is interrupted during sleep.  Due to repeatedly starting and stopping of the breathing the brain and the rest of the body does not get enough oxygen.

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

  • Headaches in the morning.
  • Waking up frequently to urinate.
  • Pauses in breathing.
  • Gasping during sleep.
  • Mood swings or personality changes.
  • Feeling irritable.
  • Dry mouth or a sore throat after waking up.
  • Depressed.
  • Restless sleep.
  • Choking
  • Sleepiness.
  • Fatigue.
  • Insomnia.
  • Loud snoring.
  • Impotence.
  • Lack of every during the day.

Who are at the risk of sleep apnea?

  • Sleep apnea mostly occurs in the male.
  • Having a large neck size can also lead to sleep apnea.
  • Individuals with large tonsils, a large tongue, or a small jaw bone are at risk of developing sleep apnea.
  • Being overweight adds to the risk of sleep apnea.
  • Sleep apnea is generally found in individual over the age of 40.
  • Individuals with having a family history of sleep apnea.
  • Individuals who smoke.
  • Individuals with nasal obstruction due to a deviated septum, allergies, or sinus problems.

Types of sleep apnea

There are three types of sleep apnea:-

  • Obstructive sleep apnea: This kind of sleep apnea is more common. Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by a blockage of the airway. This blockage is generally caused when the soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses during sleep. While sleeping a person’s throat muscles relax which allows the tongue and the fatty tissues of the throat to fall back into the airways and block airflow. During sleep apnea, the air is restricted from moving beyond the obstruction which results in a reduction of blood flow to the brain which in turn signals the brain to partially awaken from sleep and signal the body for its needs to breathe.
  • Central Sleep Apnea: Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain does not send proper signals to the muscles that control the breathing. This sleep apnea is much less common that obstructive sleep apnea.
  • Complex Sleep Apnea:Complex sleep apnea occurs when someone has both the obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.

Treatment for sleep apnea

For milder cases of sleep apnea, the doctors may recommend lifestyle changes, such as to weight loss advice to quit smoking. In Case if the patient does not get relief from the lifestyle changes then the surgeon may recommend the following:-

1. Therapies

  • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP): Continuous positive airway pressure is the most common and reliable method to treat sleep apnea. In this therapy, the machine is used to deliver the air pressure through a masked which is placed over the nose of the patient while sleeping.
  • Other airway pressure devices: Airway pressure devices automatically adjust the pressure while the patient is sleeping. Units which supply bi-level positive airway pressure are also used to provide the patient with relief from sleep apnea. These provide more pressure to the patient when they inhale and less when they exhale.
  • Expiratory positive airway pressure (EPAP):These are small, single devices which are placed over each of the nostrils before the patient goes to sleep. The device allows the air to move freely in. when the patient exhales the air must go through small holes in the valve of the device. This increases pressure in the airway and keeps it open. The device used to the expiratory positive airway pressure Helps in reducing snoring and daytime sleepiness in patients with mild obstructive sleep apnea.

2. Surgery

Surgery is often recommended to patients when all other treatments have failed. The surgery is performed with a goal to enlarge the airway through the patient’s nose or throat that may be vibrating and causing the patient to snore or locking the upper air passages causing sleep apnea.

  • Tissue removal: While performing the procedure the surgeons removes tissue from the rear of the patient’s mouth and top of the throat. The patient’s tonsils and adenoids are also removed. This surgery is successful in stopping throat structures from vibrating and causing snoring.
  • Jaw repositioning: In this procedure the patient’s jaw is moved forward from the remainder of the face bones. This enlarges the space behind the tongue and soft palate, making obstruction less likely.
  • Implants: Plastic rods are surgically implanted into the soft palate of the patient.
  • Creating a new air passageway: – The patient’s may need this form of surgery if other treatments have failed and the patient has a severe, life-threatening sleep apnea. In this procedure, the surgeon makes an opening in the patient’s neck and inserts a metal or plastic tube through which the patient’s breathe.

Following are some other surgeries which are used to treat sleep apnea:-

  • Weight-loss surgery.
  • Nasal surgery to remove polyps.
  • Straightening a crooked partition between the patient’s nostrils.
  • Surgery to remove enlarged tonsils or adenoids.

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