Thousands of American adults and children have sleep apnea. With this chronic disorder, people repeatedly stop breathing during sleep, causing a decrease in oxygenation and sudden, gasping wakefulness. The health effects of sleep apnea are serious, and sleep medicine specialists have developed combination therapies that control or even eliminate this health problem.
Here’s more on multiple approaches to sleep apnea.
What Causes the Symptoms of Sleep Apnea?
There are two kinds of sleep apnea: obstructive, largely caused by excess soft tissue at the back of the throat, or by large neck circumference, or central sleep apnea, caused by a defect in the nerve pathway between the brain and respiratory system. OSA is by far the most common and treatable form of sleep apnea.
Symptoms of OSA include:
- Awakening several times AN HOUR because of breathing cessation
- Loud snoring
- Dry throat and mouth in the morning
- Daytime fatigue, mental fogginess and irritability
These symptoms can lead to even more concerning health issues, such as diabetes, stroke, heart attack, erectile dysfunction, hypertension, and glaucoma.
How Can a Sleep Medicine Specialist Help?
A board-certified sleep medicine specialist offers the most accurate assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of sleep disorders, including obstructive sleep apnea. Your specialist will review the medical history and symptoms of numerous people who complain of sleep issues and do a thorough ear, nose, and throat assessment to discover any tissues in the sinuses, throat, or back of the mouth that could block the airway during sleep.
Many specialists offer both in-home and sleep lab evaluations, which measure patient movements, snoring, respiratory patterns, brain waves, and other vital signs as they sleep overnight. These evaluations render valuable diagnostic information that helps the physician develop treatment plans to control sleep apnea symptoms.
What Therapies Can Be Combined to Optimize Treatment?
One of the frequently used treatments for OSA is the CPAP machine, which delivers a steady flow of air through a facial or nasal mask; the continuous positive airway pressure machine keeps the back of the throat open as an individual sleeps. The BiPAP, or bilevel positive airway pressure machine, delivers less air when a person exhales. BiPAP is more comfortable and conducive to patient compliance than CPAP.
Other common therapies include:
- Surgeries to remove excess soft tissue from the back of the throat or sinuses (adenoidectomy or tonsillectomy as examples)
- In-office radiofrequency ablation to remove or modify the uvula at the back of the throat
- Use of disposable nasal strips to open the nasal passages
- Oral appliance therapy to place the jaw in a more forward position or to suppress the tongue
If you receive a diagnosis of sleep apnea, your provider will recommend the treatment best suited to your particular overall health, airway size, nasal congestion, and other factors.
Combination therapies work well for many of our patients. A common combination is the use of customized oral appliances along with CPAP. Also, some people do well with auto-adjusting CPAP machines, which change pressures during the night.
Lastly, many individuals combine these more invasive therapies with lifestyle changes. These changes may include:
- Losing weight (and thereby decreasing neck circumference)
- Specific throat muscle exercises
- Sleeping on the side rather than on the back
- Not drinking alcohol before going to bed
- Stopping cigarette smoking
Sleep Apnea Treatment in Georgetown, TX
At Georgetown ENT, our sleep medicine specialist and otolaryngologist, Dr. Scott William Franklin, is up to date on the latest and most effective combination treatments for sleep apnea. He will take the time necessary to identify your issue and find a solution best suited for you.
If you would like to explore how he can help you get the sleep you deserve and enjoy more vibrant health and function, please contact us for an in-depth consultation at (512) 869-0604 or request your appointment online.