Pediatric sleep apnea is a condition in which your child experiences breathing disturbances during their sleep caused by partial or complete obstruction in their airway.
Pediatric sleep apnea can lead to potentially life-threatening complications if left untreated. That is why it is imperative to consult an ENT doctor, preferably one who specializes in sleep medicine, to pinpoint its cause and devise the most effective treatment plan.
Outlined in this article are a few of the most common causes of pediatric sleep apnea along with their corresponding interventions.
Enlarged Tonsils and Adenoids
The most common cause of sleep apnea in children is tonsil or adenoid enlargement. The tonsils are small, round pieces of tissue located in the back of the throat on both sides of the mouth, while the adenoids are a clump of tissue located above the roof of the mouth just behind the nasal cavity. Both the tonsils and adenoids can become enlarged when they get infected and cause airway obstruction. Viral and bacterial infections, such as the flu or strep throat, are the common culprits in tonsil and adenoid enlargement.
If your child’s tonsils and adenoids become repeatedly infected, your ENT doctor will likely recommend surgery to remove them to help prevent complications. Adenoidectomy and tonsillectomy can both be carried out on an outpatient basis.
Obesity is a common cause of obstructive sleep apnea in children just as it is in adults. It’s estimated that sleep apnea occurs in up to 60 percent of children living with obesity.
With obesity, the soft tissues of the throat collapses, making it difficult to breathe. The fat pads within the throat and neck can cause further narrowing of the airway, while pressure from fat collection in the midsection and chest makes it harder to take a deep breath. Obese children can also experience enlarged tonsils and adenoids, causing further airway obstruction.
While positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy is the gold standard for treating sleep apnea, weight loss remains the mainstay of treatment for children who have obesity-related sleep apnea. PAP therapy can be administered either as continuous (CPAP) or bilevel (BiPAP).
Other Medical Conditions
Certain medical conditions can cause low airway tone, meaning the airway structures are weak and more prone to collapse, causing breathing difficulties. Some of these conditions include the following:
- Down syndrome
- Cerebral palsy
- Sickle cell disease
- Abnormalities in the skull or face
- Neuromuscular disease
Depending on which of these conditions is affecting your child, your ENT doctor may collaborate with your primary care physician and other specialists to address both the underlying cause and sleep apnea itself.
Sleep Apnea Treatment in Georgetown, TX
If you are concerned about your child’s sleep habits or suspect your child is suffering from sleep apnea, don’t wait to seek treatment— consult our board-certified ENT doctor here at Georgetown ENT right away. Dr. Scott Franklin specializes in sleep medicine and can provide an effective solution to your child’s sleep apnea problem.
If you would like to schedule a consultation with Dr. Franklin, call our clinic today at 512-869-0604 or fill out our convenient online appointment request form. We forward to serving you and helping your child sleep better!