Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a serious and even life-threatening condition. The risks of undiagnosed OSA include heart attack, stroke, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, heart disease and decreased libido. In addition, OSA causes daytime drowsiness that can result in accidents, lost productivity and relationship problems.
The National Sleep Foundation estimates that 18 million adults have obstructive sleep apnea and it is likely that OSA also affects 2% to 3% of children. Yet, people who have OSA may not be aware they have a problem. If someone close to you has spoken of your loud snoring and has noticed that you often wake up abruptly, gasping for air, you should consult your Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon (OMS)
What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
During sleep, the upper airway can be obstructed by excess tissue, large tonsils and/or a large tongue. Also contributing to the problem may be the airway muscles, which relax and collapse during sleep, nasal passages, and the position of the jaw. The cessation of breathing, or “apnea,” brought about by these factors initiates impulses from the brain to wake the person just enough to restart the breathing process. Sleep apnea is generally defined as the presence of more than 30 apneas during a seven-hour sleep. In severe cases, periods of not breathing may last for as long as 60 to 90 seconds and may recur up to 500 times a night.
There are several treatment modalities that can effectively treat OSA. Depending on the severity, your doctors will select the treatment that is best for you. An initial treatment may consist of using continous positive airwary pressure (CPAP) machine that delivers pressurized air through a mask to limit obstruction at night. Some patients with mild forms of OSA can be treated with an oral appliance that is custom fabricated by your doctor to bring the lower jaw and tongue forward. This results in decreased airway obstruction while you sleep. Patients that do not tolerate CPAP may be candidates for surgical treatment. Your surgeon will discuss treatment options based on your clinical exam, radiographs, sleep endoscopy, and sleep study.
OSA is a very serious condition that needs careful attention and treatment. Most major medical plans offer coverage for diagnosis and treatment.
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