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Sleep Apnea Treatment Options

Surgical and Non-Surgical Choices for Sleep Apnea Treatment

In the realm of sleep medicine, here are some of the treatment options for those with sleep apnea.

Surgical Treatment for Sleep Apnea

Tracheostomy is a cut in the lower throat to bypass the collapsing upper airway. It’s a permanent opening to the windpipe that can be opened and closed. It is the most effective surgical procedure for treatment of the obstructive type of sleep apnea. However, it is not without its downside. The procedure is disfiguring and affects the patient’s quality of life. The valve that can be opened or closed can make the patient susceptible to infection, apart from its needing regular cleaning. Tracheostomy is now reserved for patients with severe apnea or if other medical and surgical modalities fail.

Tonsillectomy and uvulopalatopharyngoplasty are surgical procedures available to address pharyngeal obstruction. The surgical removal of the tonsils, or the uvula and part of the posterior palate may be successful in the appropriate patient. However, freeing the airway of these structures involves a lot of cutting inside the mouth and throat. It can also be painful for the patient.

Non-surgical Treatment for Sleep Apnea

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)

The Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, or CPAP, device is now the most common treatment used for moderate to severe sleep apnea, The person’s airway is splint open during sleep by means of pressurized air. A plastic facial mask is worn that is connected by a flexible tube to a small bedside CPAP machine. The CPAP is a non-surgical approach that uses a breathing mask to stiffen walls of the throat to keep tissue from becoming floppy and blocking the airway. But then, the patient needs to strap on the mask every time he goes to sleep. It takes a lot of getting used to and many patients abandon their masks in only their first year of use. However, perseverance pays and the results can be positively dramatic.

Weight Loss

Weight loss is another type of intervention in the treatment of sleep apnea. While it is possible to be thin and have sleep apnea, obesity multiplies the probability. Excess body weight is thought to be an important cause of apnea. People who are overweight have more tissues in the back of their throat which can restrict the airways especially when sleeping. The lifestyle change involves shedding addictive substances like alcohol or sugar, not to mention high calorie diets. In weight loss studies of overweight individuals, those who lose weight show reduced apnea frequencies.

An important area of consideration for those with sleep apnea is their increased risk for complications arising in surgery. Surgeons are seeing more and more patients going through elective surgery as indicating in their screening questionnaire that they snore in their sleep. Sleep apnea can be a risk factor for poor outcomes, such as pulmonary complications.

Other issues are: changing the anaesthesia based on sleep apnea, medications that can cause the airway to collapse, multiple medications that can build up and cause interactions. Also, after surgery, people with apnea have to be monitored longer and there may be the need for intensive care services, which significantly increase health care costs.

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Sleep Apnea Treatment Options at Tetrick Family Dentistry

Schedule an evaluation with the dentist to see if the sleep apnea appliance could be a therapeutic for you.

Understanding the Dangers of Sleep Apnea

Rise of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea affects millions of people around the world and causing its hallmark symptoms – multiple times snoring, stirring, and gasping for air while asleep – to bother most people, including their bed partners. What’s really happening during sleep apnea and why should sufferers seek treatment?

During sleep apnea, your throat muscles relax too much, your airway collapses and gets blocked. Air supply is continually interrupted, causing blood oxygen levels to drop. You are trying to breathe, or you may wake up. This can happen multiple times a night, and the ill-effects are many and severe.

It can put a strain on your heart that races to pump more blood, compensating for the lack of oxygen. Fluctuating oxygen levels cause plaque buildup in arteries, upping the risk of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and stroke. Thousands of Americans die every year of heart disease worsened by apnea. The condition can also affect glucose metabolism and promote insulin resistance and weight gain.

Sleep Apnea can Lead to Other Health Concerns

Many studies and researches correlate apnea with serious aftereffects. Lacking a full night’s sleep is associated with memory loss, anxiety, and depression. Inattention due to lack of sleep can lead to traffic accidents, major absenteeism, and lost of jobs. Those with severe apnea were found to die, 3x more likely, in an 18-year period than those without apnea.

A 2019 study says nearly a billion people worldwide suffer from mild-to-severe sleep apnea. But the condition is largely ignored and studied even less. Many patients are not even aware. A large neck, or large tonsils, a small jaw, obesity, or aging are risk factors. The only way to diagnose it is to monitor someone’s sleep.

The most common method used to diagnose sleep apnea is a sleep study, which may require an overnight stay at a sleep center. The study monitors a variety of functions during sleep including sleep state, eye movement, muscle activity, heart rate, respiratory effort, airflow, and blood oxygen levels. The test diagnoses sleep apnea and determines its severity.

The sleep study is just the beginning of the journey. The next blog will discuss patients’ options.

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More on Sleep Apnea in Bellingham

If you think you’re experiencing sleep apnea symptoms, visit Dr. Tetrick in Bellingham. Let’s discuss it more and explore your options.