Sleep apnea affects more than 18 million adults nationwide, as well as an estimated 2 to 4 percent of children. Sleep apnea can strike any person at any age or stage of life.
While getting a diagnosis of sleep apnea can be a difficult thing to hear, it is far better to know what is causing the distressing range of symptoms associated with sleep apnea than to wonder what is wrong with you or your child.
In this article, learn more about what characterizes sleep apnea, who is most at risk, the different types of sleep apnea, what the major symptoms are and what treatments are available today.
Learning About Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea can take three different forms: obstructive, central or compound. Obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, occurs when the airway becomes obstructed during sleep, which interrupts the flow of oxygen. Central sleep apnea, which is less common, occurs when the brain doesn’t send regular signals to the respiratory muscles to breathe in and out, with the result being an interrupted air flow.
Compound or mixed sleep apnea can include some components of both obstructive and central type sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea can also be mild, moderate or severe. The mildest cases often respond well to at-home remedies such as lifestyle changes and use of different sleeping positions. However, moderate and severe cases are often best addressed with use of a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) device and/or surgical intervention.
Understanding Sleep Apnea Symptoms
Sleep apnea can manifest as a range of symptoms, some of which can mimic other health issues or even seem to conflict each other. For example, in cases of obstructive sleep apnea, loud snoring, gasping and choking in the night are often the first warning signals. But in cases of central sleep apnea, the person rarely snores at all.
For this reason, it is important to know about the other common signs and symptoms beyond just the presence of snoring to identify a possible case of sleep apnea:
- Excessive sleepiness and/or tiredness during the day.
- Waking many times at night or being unable to sleep.
- Feeling like you always wake with dry mouth or a sore throat.
- Suffering from frequent morning headaches.
- Becoming more irritable, forgetful, anxious and/or depressed.
- Falling asleep while driving.
As well, since today’s researchers suspect sleep apnea can run in families, it is important to find out if there are other people in your family tree who have been diagnosed with sleep apnea.
Finally, it is known that certain people are at higher risk of developing sleep apnea than others. Here are the current known risk factors:
- Overweight or obesity.
- Larger than average neck size (16 to 17 inches).
- Small jaw.
- Narrow sinuses or deviated septum.
- Large, fleshy tongue with a large soft palate area.
- Receding chin or jawline.
- Over age 40 and male.
- Hispanic, black or Pacific Islander.
Diagnosing Sleep Apnea
Diagnosing sleep apnea often occurs during a routine medical exam when the patient begins to share symptoms consistent with a case of sleep apnea. Sometimes a person will go to see a doctor because of persistent daytime tiredness or mood changes, and the doctor will recognize the symptoms as being consistent with sleep apnea.
Sometimes a person will also be told by a parent or partner that they are snoring loudly at night, and this prompts the person to seek out a sleep specialist for help.
Diagnosing sleep apnea depends both on the patient’s reported symptoms and on the results of a sleep study test. The sleep study test can be done at a sleep center (preferred if available) or at home using monitoring equipment. The test monitors respiration while you are sleeping and notes any times when breathing ceases, how often this occurs and the duration of each cessation.
Someone with sleep apnea may have as many as 30 cessations per night, which can put them at high risk for secondary side effects such as heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure and even death.
Treating Sleep Apnea
For mild cases of sleep apnea, patients may do well just using a CPAP device and making the effort to lose weight, get more exercise and adopt an overall healthy lifestyle.
But many people today want a more permanent solution that doesn’t leave them feeling dependent on a machine for good sleep and overall wellness.
There are several different surgical options that can deliver permanent results for treating sleep apnea. The type of surgery will depend on your specific case.
- Surgery to correct upper airway issues. Typically, this type of surgery will be done to correct narrow sinus canals or a deviated septum.
- Surgery to correct the soft palate. This type of surgery can remove or relocate excess tissue in the soft palate and tighten up the soft palate itself. This can be done with radio-frequency probes, lasers or by hand.
- Surgery to correct jaw misalignment. Orthognathic jaw surgery corrects misalignment in the jaw and face to remove airway obstructions, resolve snoring issues and promote better sleep.
Contact Dr. Jamali To Learn More
Dr. Majid Jamali holds a board certification in oral and maxillofacial surgery. Prior to becoming a surgeon, Dr. Jamali completed his doctoral work in dentistry and orthodontics. He has also participated in more than 1,200 surgeries requiring precise administration of dental anesthesia for pain management, giving him an advanced expertise that few surgeons nationwide can match.
Dr. Jamali specializes in special issues of the face and jaw, including facial (orthognathic) reconstructive surgery, treatment of sleep apnea and anesthesiology. He consistently earns 5-star patient reviews on the respected patient-driven website Real Self, where he has also been awarded Top Doctor and Top 100 Provider recognition.
To learn more and schedule an appointment, contact Dr. Jamali at 212-480-5777 or online at www.omsofny.com.