According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), an estimated 18 million adults and as many as 3 percent of all children are currently suffering from various stages of sleep apnea.
While researchers are still investigating the wide variety of potential causes for sleep apnea, what is known is that in some cases, genetics plays a part. Lifestyle is also implicated, with overweight or obese individuals bearing a higher risk to develop sleep apnea.
In this article, learn more about the causes for sleep apnea, what types of symptoms occur, how it is diagnosed and most importantly, what can be done to treat this potentially life-threatening sleep disorder.
Sleep Apnea Causes
Several factors are now known to raise the risk of developing sleep apnea. What isn’t as well know, however, is that sleep apnea can arise at any time in life, even in early childhood.
This list includes the best-known possible causes for sleep apnea:
- Genetic inheritance.
- Narrow airway combined with large tongue/tonsils/uvula.
- Being overweight or obese.
- Having a receding chin and small jaw area.
- Having a large neck.
- Having an untreated dental overbite.
- Smoking heavily or drinking heavily.
- Certain ethnicities: Hispanic, Pacific Islander, African American.
- Being over the age of 40.
Sleep Apnea Signs & Symptoms
Because sleep apnea can develop at any age, it is very important to know the signs and symptoms. This can tell you if it is time to seek medical attention and treatment. You may also need to rely on a partner to alert you to some of these symptoms.
The major signs and symptoms include these:
- Feeling chronically unrested.
- Having headaches in the morning.
- Snoring loudly, especially if combined with gasping or choking.
- Feeling irritable or forgetful.
- Waking up frequently in the night to go to the bathroom.
- Having a sore throat or persistent dry mouth when you wake up.
- Experiencing anxiety, depression and mood shifts.
Sleep Apnea Diagnosis
Diagnosing sleep apnea typically begins when a patient is seen by a doctor, whether for a routine checkup or for specific reasons. Often patients may seek attention for some of the symptoms, such as feeling sleepy during the day, without knowing that the real cause is sleep apnea.
Typically a physician will recommend a sleep study to make a definitive diagnosis. This can be done at a sleep center or at home. The sleep study can also confirm if you may have obstructive-type sleep apnea, which may require surgical treatment to resolve.
Sleep Apnea Treatment
Sleep apnea surgery is performed by an oral and maxillofacial surgeon like Dr. Jamali. When patients seek out Dr. Jamali for a consultation, it is often at the recommendation of their primary care doctor or a sleep center.
Dr. Jamali will perform a thorough exam of the face, nose, mouth and throat area to identify any potential respiratory or airway obstructions that may be causing or contributing to sleep apnea.
Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by two related factors: low blood oxygen and chronic sleep disruptions.
Obstructive sleep apnea gets its name from the blockage that is occurring inside the airway. Often this is caused when the tongue is pulled to the back of the throat, where it blocks air from getting through. This can cause periods of breath cessation that interrupt sleep, wake you up and prompt you to take in air.
Over time, these periods of breath cessation can become damaging and even deadly. Less severe blockages are called Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS), while more severe blockages are called Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).
Sleep Apnea Treatment Options
Today’s medical science has developed a number of effective ways to treat obstructive sleep apnea, whether the case is mild, moderate or severe.
Often the first step is to fit you with a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) device to help regulate your breathing patterns while you are asleep. There are several different types and sizes of CPAP devices, and it is important to try different types to see what will work best for your needs.
If the CPAP device does not deliver the desired results, the next step is often surgery. The three main types of surgical treatment for mild to moderate cases of OAS can each be done on an outpatient basis at Dr. Jamali’s office using light local sedation:
- Uvulo-palato-pharyngo-plasty (UPPP). Here, tissue is removed from the throat as needed to widen the airway and remove obstructions.
- Laser assisted uvulo-palato-plasty (LAUPP). This similar procedure uses a laser to achieve the same goal.
- Radio-frequency probe. The goal in this procedure is to tighten the soft palate to prevent airway obstructions from occurring.
For more severe cases of OAS, Dr. Jamali can perform orthodognathic (jaw) surgery can be performed to correct jaw alignment issues that may be contributing to airway obstructions during sleep. This more extensive procedure is typically performed in a hospital setting with general anesthesia and an overnight stay required.
The good news is that many insurers offer partial or full coverage for sleep apnea diagnosis, treatment and assistive technology such as recommended CPAP machines.
Contact Dr. Jamali Today
Dr. Majid Jamali holds a board certification as an oral and maxillofacial surgeon. In addition to Dr. Jamali’s extensive experience with special oral health issues, he is one of the few surgeons nationwide who has earned advanced specialization in dental anesthesia and pain control.
Dr. Jamali practices in New York City, NY, where he serves a diverse client group in the greater New York area as well as nationwide. Real Self has awarded him a Top 100 award and a Top Doctor award, and to date he continues to generate 5-star reviews on this trusted patient-driven medical review site.
To learn more and schedule your initial consultation, contact Dr. Jamali’s office at 212-480-2777 or online at www.omsofny.com.