Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome (OSAS) is a severe problem that is too often ignored. Many patients suffering from this either don’t know they have it or don’t understand the potential complications and importance of treatment. The misunderstanding stems from the fact that patients believe sleep apnea is just a snoring problem. |
OSAS interrupts breathing as your sleep, usually related to muscles in your throat relaxing too much. This relaxation affects the soft palate (back of the roof of your mouth), the uvula (the tissue that hangs down in the back of your throat and looks like a punching bag), and the tongue, tonsils, and adenoids. The result is a narrowing or closing of your airway that stops your breathing for 10 seconds or more. In severe cases, patients can stop breathing for up to 90 seconds.
The brain picks up on the buildup of carbon dioxide and low oxygenation level and rouses you to reopen your airway. Frequently, this rousing is so brief many patients do not perceive it. Most people wake up believing they got a good night’s rest.
With most patients, this occurs all through the night, interrupting the ability to enter the restful phase of sleep. In milder forms, this may occur five times a night. In severe cases, it could happen over 30 times each hour. But even if the patient doesn’t realize the problem, the body does. Moderate to severe OSAS can cause an alarming decrease of oxygenation of the blood. The chronic levels of inadequate oxygenation strain the cardiovascular system and increase blood pressure.
This puts patients at increased risk of:
• Heart disease
• Coronary artery disease
• Chronic high blood pressure
• Abnormal heart rhythms
• Heart attack
• Sudden death
Many people assume that because breathing spontaneously resumes, the problem is not significant. However, aside from the above risks, the inability to get a decent night’s rest can cause other issues as well. These problems can include:
• Daytime fatigue and sleepiness (including falling asleep at work or while driving)
• Increased risk of accidents and mistakes
• Difficulty concentrating
• Problems with attention
• Behavioral problems (especially in children)
• Vision and eye complications, including glaucoma
• Higher risk of complications with medications (especially anesthesia)
Since one of the significant symptoms of OSAS is loud snoring, your bedmate’s sleeping pattern can also be disrupted. If your snoring is particularly noisy, it can also interfere with the ability of everyone in the house to get proper sleep.
When your loved ones don’t get the restorative rest they need, they are also at risk for many of the above complications. It can also cause embarrassment, shame, and disruptions in relationships.
Loud snoring is a high indicator for OSAS, but not everyone who snores loudly has it. The most concerning sign is if someone has observed you stop breathing during sleep. If that is the case for you, or if you awaken during the night with choking or gasping or fall asleep while driving, seek testing and treatment right away. If not, look for other indicators of this serious medical condition:
• Daytime fatigue or sleepiness
• Morning headaches
• High blood pressure
• Dry mouth or sore throat upon awakening
• Mood changes, like irritability or depression
• Difficulty concentrating (P)• Falling asleep at work or while watching television or driving
• Restlessness or waking up abruptly, especially if often
• Night sweats
The most common risk factors for OSAS are being overweight, over 40 years of age, being male, and having a thick neck. However, there are many other risk factors, including enlarged tonsils, adenoids, or tongue, thickened uvula or soft palate, or smaller airways through the mouth, throat, or nose, including deviated septum or chronic nasal congestion. You are also at higher risk if you are a smoker or have diabetes or high blood pressure.
If any of the above symptoms are interfering with a healthy life for you, treatment options are available. Even if you don’t have OSAS, snoring can be a disruptive problem for you and your loved ones. The best way to know which treatment is optimal for you is to visit your local oral surgeon.
During a professional assessment with your oral surgeon, modern diagnostics that evaluate vibrations in the nose, throat, soft palate, and tongue can help identify the obstruction. Then proven solution options can be discussed.
Treatment options may include life alterations, such as weight loss, avoiding alcohol and sleeping aids, or learning to sleep on your back. Other options include oral devices, such as a dental appliance that keeps the airway open.
For patients who need more help, CPAP and BiPAP are excellent options. These both involve wearing a mask connected to a machine that forces air through the nose or mouth to keep upper airway tissues from collapsing.
Surgical options are also available. While more extensive surgeries may mean consultation with an otolaryngologist (ENT), oral surgeons can perform procedures such as Laser Assisted Uvuloplasty (LAUP) and Pillar Procedure.
LAUP is an outpatient, in-office procedure that removes part or all of the uvula.
Pillar Procedure is also an in-office, outpatient procedure. It involves placing small rods in the soft palate to stiffen it, which reduces vibration and relaxation of the tissue.
If you would like to know more about OSAS treatment options, contact your local Colleyville oral surgeron, Dr. Chris Tye at Texas Oral Surgery Specialits online or call (817) 552-3223 today.
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