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Sleep Apnea

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Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that is characterized by repetitive episodes of upper airway obstruction. While it can lead to daytime drowsiness and lethargy, it can be potentially life threatening if left untreated. Find out the difference between obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. What is the treatment options? How can a sleep apnea mask help?


Sleep apnea

The muscles in the upper part of the throat allow air to flow into the lungs. During sleep, these muscles relax but still permit the flow of air. In some persons, this passage gets narrowed considerably and breathing becomes labored. Sleep apnea is a condition where the blockage of the airway prevents air from getting into the lungs. This leads to snoring at regular pace and short periods of time where the breathing ceases.

This is followed by sudden attempts to breathe with a loud gasp and snort. Consequently this condition affects the sleep and the person is not well rested. Besides the oxygen levels remain low leading to drowsiness and tiredness. Severe sleep apnea is likely to cause pulmonary hypertension. While sleep apnea is more likely to affect older obese men, even women can suffer from this condition.

A large neck or collar size can be one of the causes of obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep apnea can be potentially life threatening since it can cause heart attacks or strokes. The repeated episodes of disturbed sleep can leave a person drowsy and tired during the day. This can cause accidents and loss of productivity.


Diagnostic procedures to evaluate sleep apnea condition:

1. ECG to show arrhythmia during sleep
2. Echocardiogram to study the heart functioning
3. Thyroid function tests
4. Sleep studies

The goal of any sleep apnea treatment is to keep the airways open so as to prevent apneas. Patients are advised to maintain healthy body weight and refrain from consumption of alcohol or sedatives at bedtime. CPAP - continuous positive airway pressure is a form of mechanical breathing assistance. This treatment for sleep apnea involves use of a facemask worn over the nose and mouth at night.


Sleep apnea treatment


Treatment for sleep apnea can range from lifestyle modification, medication to even surgery in some cases. Weight loss and avoiding smoking are some of the changes that may need to be introduced into the lifestyle to prevent episodes of sleep apnea.

This can improve nasal breathing. Usage of CPAP is another form of sleep apnea treatment that involves wearing of a close fitting mask that creates a dilating pressure into the upper airway. This prevents snoring and sleep apnea episodes. The amount of airflow and pressure is determined by the physician.


Obstructive sleep apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder. It is caused when something obstructs the windpipe or trachea that brings air to the body. The cause of obstruction could be the tongue or tonsils or ovula. Sometimes fatty tissues might also cause obstructive sleep apnea. Persons suffering from obstructive sleep apnea complain of some of the following conditions:


  • Loud snoring
  • Daytime drowsiness
  • Memory loss
  • Limited attention
  • Morning headaches
  • Lethargy

Central sleep apnea

Central sleep apnea is a condition where the body forgets to breathe for a few seconds. This type of sleep apnea is not caused due to any obstructions and is believed to be of neurological origin. Central sleep apnea is indicated by episodes of cessation of breathing. This neurological condition may be accompanied by difficulty in swallowing, weakness and numbness throughout the body. Central sleep apnea is diagnosed by MRI and night-long polygraphic sleep monitoring. Central sleep apnea can lead to

1. Excessive daytime sleepiness
2. Irritability
3. Lack of concentration
4. Sleep deprivation
5. Increased blood pressure
6. Heart disease

Central sleep apnea is treated with drug therapy or administration of low doses of oxygen. CPAP (continuous airway pressure) is also used.


Sleep apnea surgery

Sleep apnea is often treated with surgery that removes the cause of obstruction. Enlarged tonsils or adenoids are removed to cure sleep apnea. Another sleep apnea surgery is UPPP - uvulopalatopharyngoplasty, which involves removal of excess tissue from the back of the throat. This is done to increase the size of the upper airway.

Usually it involves removal of the soft palate that hangs down the back of the throat. Such sleep apnea surgery is performed under general anesthesia. These days it is done under local anesthesia with laser assistance. Nasal reconstruction surgery straightens the nasal septum and shrinks the nasal tissue, thereby improving nasal airway. Changing the bony structure in the upper airway allows air to move more freely, especially during sleep.


Sleep apnea mask

The CPAP mask uses air pressure to push the tongue forward. This opens the throat to air, and reduces snoring and apnea. It does not cure sleep apnea but relieves the patient by preventing recurrent episodes. Personalized sleep apnea masks are created to fit exactly on your face, nose, cheeks, lips and forehead. The sleep apnea mask is secured well so that there are no leaks.


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