Obstructive Sleep Apnea
What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea is a common condition that involves breathing problems during sleep, as the throat muscles relax and block the airway. Individuals that suffer from sleep apnea experience moments during their sleep in which they are not breathing. This can occur up to hundreds of times, sometimes for a minute or longer, posing great danger for that individual. With normal breathing, air enters the lungs, bypassing the nose and flexible structures such as the soft palate, uvula and tongue.
During awake periods, the muscles hold the airway open, allowing air to flow easily. When asleep, although these muscles do relax, they are still functioning and allowing air to pass. For sleep apnea patients, this airway is blocked, causing a decrease in oxygen levels in both the blood and brain.
Is Sleep Apnea and snoring the same thing?
Although people with obstructive sleep apnea will invariably snore, these are not one in the same. Snoring occurs where there is some degree of interference with the patient’s airflow when sleeping. It is the interference that causes the noise that is snoring.
Sleep apnea isn’t just interference; it’s wholesale blockage of the airway. When the tongue or other tissues fall backwards and block the airway, the brain senses that it is not receiving oxygen, so it awakens the person to reopen the airway and deliver necessary oxygen. Although this can happen dozens or even hundreds of times per night, the person may not remember ever waking up the next day. But odds are they will have the telltale drowsiness and irritability that result from such fractured sleep.
That’s the problem with snoring. Although patients with sleep apnea will snore at times when their airway isn’t fully blocked, they mistakenly assume that’s all there is to it, and they don’t seek treatment for the far more serious issue of sleep apnea.
Is Sleep Apnea Permanent?
Sleep apnea doesn’t have to be permanent, but it can be. At The ENT & Allergy Centers of Texas we successfully treat obstructive sleep apnea every day. But we need to see you to treat you. Treatment may need to be ongoing, or your situation could change and your condition could resolve.
There are times where a person’s sleep apnea could be deemed permanent unless they have surgery to correct the physical issues with sagging tissues. If you have overly relaxed throat tissues and tongue muscles, your sleep apnea will endure, but oral appliance therapy could be all you need to address it.
In other cases, such as obesity, if the person loses weight their sleep apnea could go away with the extra pounds. The same would be true of a chronic allergy that finally is resolved, so the tissue inflammation in the throat decreases.
The key thing to know, however, is that even if your sleep apnea is likely to continue, it’s important to see us at The ENT & Allergy Centers of Texas for treatment. This will improve your sleep, which will improve your daytime and your life.
How Is Sleep Apnea Diagnosed?
Your doctor may be able to diagnose obstructive sleep apnea after an evaluation of your symptoms. These tests are performed while the patient is asleep to help detect any abnormal behaviors that may lead to sleep apnea. Once the condition has been diagnosed, there are several treatment options available to manage symptoms and allow patients to enjoy uninterrupted sleep.
Additional testing may be needed in some cases, which may include:
- Nocturnal polysomnography
- Portable cardiorespiratory testing
Who is a candidate for Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
It’s estimated that one in four U.S. adults has obstructive sleep apnea — that equals 67 million people. But it’s also estimated that about 80 percent of those people don’t have their sleep apnea diagnosed and so they are not getting treatment.
Are you one of those people? It may be time to pay attention to that daytime drowsiness and problems with your attention, along with the other signs of sleep apnea. At The ENT & Allergy Centers of Texas, we have an entire team who understands and successfully treats obstructive sleep apnea every day. If this list below sounds like you, we need to see you in one or our four locations. Some of these signs may be shared with you by the person sleeping next to you.
- Attention problems
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat
- Loud snoring (more prominent with obstructive sleep apnea)
- Abrupt awakenings from sleep
- Episodes of breathing cessation witnessed by another person
- Waking up with a headache in the morning
- Difficulty staying asleep
You’ll be asked to complete a sleep history, usually helped by someone who shares your bed or someone in your household. We likely will also refer you to a sleep disorder center, if it looks like you’re a good candidate. There you will be monitored overnight as you sleep. You may also use a home test, which is a simplified version that measures your heart rate, blood oxygen level, airflow, and breathing patterns while you sleep.
What Are The Causes of Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
- Cardiovascular problems
- Throat and tongue muscles more relaxed than normal
What are the risks factors for someone developing Sleep Apnea?
Certain factors increase your risk for developing obstructive sleep apnea.
- Obesity — People who are obese have four times the risk of sleep apnea. Fat deposits around the upper airway can add to obstruction.
- Neck circumference — People with thicker necks often have narrower airways (men 17 inches and larger, women 15 inches and larger).
- Men — Men are twice as likely to have sleep apnea.
- Age — Sleep apnea is more common in older adults.
- Narrowed airway — Some people simply have a naturally narrow throat or have enlarged tonsils or adenoids.
- Family history — Sleep apnea runs in families.
- Smoking — Smokers are three times more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea.
- Alcohol or sedatives — These substances relax the throat muscles.
What happens if I don’t treat my Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea surely doesn’t get the respect it deserves for its potential impact on people’s health and their quality of life. Most people seem to assume it’s just a little snoring. They don’t even consider that it could be sleep apnea.
They choose not to seek help, although they have the telltale signs of daytime drowsiness and irritability. This is a bad idea — untreated sleep apnea can lead to a number of very serious health concerns. They include:
- High blood pressure — Because you wake up over and over during the night, this process places stress on your body, activating your hormone systems. This raises your blood pressure.
- Heart disease — People with obstructive sleep apnea are more likely to have heart attacks, strokes, and atrial fibrillation.
- Type 2 diabetes — Sleep apnea is common in people with type 2 diabetes. This is because when your body is tired it has trouble effectively processing insulin.
- Weight gain — Sleep apnea can make your body release more of the hormone ghrelin, which makes you crave carbs and sweets.
- Adult asthma — Adult asthma and sleep apnea combined tend to cause the patient to suffer from more asthma attacks.
- Car accidents — People with sleep apnea are up to five times more likely than normal sleepers to have traffic accidents, and to even fall asleep at the wheel.
Inspire Sleep Therapy Patient Testimonial
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Is Surgery Always Required for Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
While there are some non-surgical treatments available, many patients with sleep apnea need surgery to remove excess tissue from the nose or throat in order to unblock the airways and promote healthy breathing.
“My family and I have both seen Dr. Champion and Dr. Patel and both of them are incredibly knowledgeable in their field. Both are very friendly and take the extra time and steps in order to make our family feel comfortable. Dr. Patel specifically helped me with symptoms that I have been experiencing for 30 years and after the surgery, I can truly say they have changed my life, because I can finally breathe and live easy again. I cannot thank them enough and I would recommend them to anyone.” – Grace
Sleep Apnea Symptoms
Patients with obstructive sleep apnea often experience the following:
- Loud snoring
- Silent pauses in breathing
- Choking or gasping sounds
- Daytime sleepiness
- Morning headaches
- Waking up with a sore throat
Surgical Treatment for Sleep Apnea
Surgical removal of tissue – this is performed through uvulopalatopharyngoplasty, a procedure that removes tissue from the throat as well as the tonsils and adenoids.
Jaw correction – the upper and lower parts of the jaw are moved forward during this procedure to create a larger space behind the tongue and soft palate.
Surgical opening in the neck – this procedure is for severe cases of sleep apnea and involve inserting a metal or plastic tube through an opening in the neck to assist with breathing during sleep.
Inspire– Inspire therapy is the first implantable device for treating obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA. Those who have inconsistent results from a CPAP can now turn to Inspire for support. In contrast to CPAP, Inspire therapy works from inside the body and with a patient’s natural breathing process. Inspire works based on each patient’s individual breathing patterns and stimulates the hypoglossal nerve to control the proper muscles.
Schedule a Consultation
To schedule your consultation to learn more about sleep apnea, call 972.984.1050. Your doctor will decide which procedure is best for you after a thorough evaluation of your condition. We have offices in Celina, Plano, Allen, and McKinney, TX.