Obstructive sleep apnea is an involuntary breathing condition during sleep. In obstructive sleep apnea, we typically see the tongue causing blockage which prevents airflow from the upper airways. The individual awakens when the oxygen level drops, clears the blockage in the throat with a cough which allows the airflow to open again.
Cardiovascular issues can arise due to recurrent periods of low oxygenation. Patients with obstructive sleep apnea may experience a lack of concentration, prolonged daytime sleepiness, and exhaustion. Furthermore, upper airway resistance syndrome affects certain patients who have less serious obstructions.
There are two main types of sleep apnea
1. Obstructive sleep apnea: Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the upper airway blocks partially or completely during sleep. These repetitive episodes of complete and partial airway blockage put pressure on the diaphragm and chest muscles to clean the airway. As a result, breathing restarts with a loud cough.
2. Central sleep apnea: In central sleep apnea, the airway is consistent but the brain (central nervous system) stops sending signals to the muscles, resulting in an inability to breathe.
Symptoms of sleep apnea
Following are some of the symptoms of sleep apnea, however, these symptoms may differ for each patient
– Waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat
– Wheezing and gasping for air during sleep
– Irritability and mood disturbances
Treatment options for Sleep Apnea
Identifying the signs in the initial consultation is the first phase in sleep apnea treatment. Consultation and treatment services can be taken from oral surgeons. After a thorough medical and dental history, the doctors will determine the anatomic associations in the maxillofacial area. The degree of obstruction can be determined using a cephalometric (skull x-ray) examination. A flexible fiber-optic camera is often used to perform a nasopharyngeal test. A sleep study may be recommended to track the amount of cardiovascular weakness and reduced oxygenation levels.
There are several treatments available for sleep apnea. The treatment for sleep apnea varies and depends verily on the age and severity of the condition.
Some conservative treatments for sleep apnea are
– Getting sufficient sleep
– Abstaining from sedatives and alcohol use
– Weight loss
– Avoiding the supine sleep position.
Some mechanical treatments for sleep apnea include
– Continuous positive airway pressure also known as CPAP device, delivers compressed oxygen via a nasal mask to limit obstruction at night.
– Mandibular devices such as mouth guards help in shifting the lower jaw forward and prevent the tongue from blocking the throat.
Surgical treatment options for sleep apnea include
– An uvulo-palato-pharyngoplasty is performed in the back of the soft palate and throat.
– A laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty is a similar operation where a radio-frequency probe is often used to tighten the soft palate.
– Orthognathic surgery can be performed in more severe cases. The upper and lower jawbones may be repositioned to expand the airway. This operation is performed under general anesthesia and usually requires a stay in the hospital for one to two days.