How Bad is My Sleep Apnea?
Do you often wake up in the middle of the night feeling out-of-breath? Is it routine for you to wake up in the mornings feeling unrested? Have others often told you that you snore loudly? If you answered “yes” to these questions, you may be experiencing sleep apnea.
What is Sleep Apnea?
A disorder that affects 25% of adults, sleep apnea is characterized by loud snoring, sleep interruption periods when breathing is completely blocked, daytime sleepiness, hyperactivity, and difficulty concentrating. It is one of the most commonly known types of sleep disorders that affects both children and adults. Individuals who have sleep apnea can experience breathing cessation for periods of ten to thirty seconds and may experience hundreds of episodes per night. As a progressive condition that can worsen over time, sleep apnea is a serious health issue that can be fatal if left undiagnosed or untreated.
The Physiology of Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea is characterized by the relaxation of the muscles in the back of the throat. Since these muscles support the soft palate, the tonsils, and the walls of the throat and the tongue, when they begin to relax the airway collapses. This makes it difficult to obtain adequate breaths and thus reduces the level of oxygen in the blood. Luckily, the brain receives signals regarding this lack of oxygen, which causes the individual to awaken. This arousal is generally characterized by a snorting, choking, or coughing sound and occurs numerous times throughout the night. However, individuals may not even know that this is occurring.In fact, oftentimes individuals with obstructive sleep apnea are convinced they are sleeping fine at night.
Who is in danger?
Certain individuals have an increased risk of developing sleep apnea, due to the presence of one or more characteristic risk factors. These factors include:
- Excess Weight and Obesity: Individuals who are obese are four times as likely to develop sleep apnea as those who are withing a healthy weight range. This is partly due to fat deposits in the upper airway that may obstruct breathing.
- Circumference of the Neck: Interestingly, individuals who have thicker necks are more at risk to develop this sleep condition. This is due to the correlation between thick neck circumference and narrow airways.
- Gender: According to studies, males are more likely to have sleep apnea. However, women can also increase their risk if they are overweight or have just gone through menopause.
- Family History: Having other family member with this sleep condition can increase your chance of developing it, as well.
- Age: Older individuals are more likely to experience sleep apnea.
- Tobacoo Use: Smokers are three times more likely to experience obstructive sleep apnea than those who have never smoked. Tobacco use can increase inflammation and fluid retention in the upper airway.
The good news is that there are several treatment options for individuals who experience sleep apnea. One of the quickest ways to temporarily elevate symptoms is through the use of a CPAP machine. A Continuous Positive Airway Pressure Machine is the most common and non-surgical treatment option. CPAP functions by directing a strong flow of pressurized oxygen through a nose or facial mask to limit airway obstruction at night time.
However, sometimes the severity of certain cases may call for a more surgical approach. One of these methods is known as UPPP (Uvulo-Palato-Pharyngo-Plasty) and is performed in the back of the soft palate and the throat. Another surgical method known as LAUPP (Laser Assisted Uvulo-Palato-Plasty) uses a similar technique with the help of a laser. Both of these procedures are usually performed in a physicians office under light sedation. In addition, both of these procedures are unlikely to be the cure for moderate to severe cases of sleep apnea. As a result, they may be combined with other surgeries that reduce blockage in the upper airway.
As the complexity of a case increases so does the necessary method of treatment. In severe cases of sleep apnea, surgery may be required to re-position the upper and lower jawbones in an attempt to increase the size of the airway. Generally, incisions are made into these bones, which are allowed to heal over the course of a few months. Sometimes the jaws may be wired shut for a few days. This is a type of orthognathic surgery that is done under general anesthesia and requires a one- to two-day overnight stay at a hospital. Patients will also be on a limited diet for several days following this procedure.
Other surgical options may also include:
- Radiofrequency Volumetric Tissue Reduction (RFVTR): Recommended for individuals with mild to moderate sleep apnea, this procedure shrinks and tightens the tissues in and around the throat with controlled cauterization.
- Septoplasty and Turbinate Reduction: Used to improve the flow of air by straightening a bent or deviated septum and opening the nasal passage.
- Genioglossus Advancement: This surgery moves the major attachment of the tongue forward in cases where the tongue falls over the airway during sleep obstructing breathing. A cut is made in the lower jaw where the tongue attaches and that piece of bone is moved forward.
- Hyoid Suspension: Involves pulling the hyoid bone forward and securing it in place. Doing so allows a larger space for breathing in the lower throat.
What Can I Do About My Sleep Apnea?
If you have been diagnosed or suspect that you have sleep apnea, then you have taken the first step in discovering a solution for your sleep condition. By consulting with a Oral and Maxillofaceial surgeon like Dr. Jamali, you can explore your surgical options and decide what is the best fit for you. Located in New York, NY, Dr. Jamali has a vast amount of knowledge, experience, and training oral and maxillofacial reconstruction. Call today at 212.480.2777 or visit his website at http://www.omsofny.com to find out how Dr. Jamali can help you with your sleep apnea.