Nobody likes to snore, but why do we snore? While there’s a myriad of answers to that question, mostly innocuous, one answer could encompass more than just some unpleasant sounds. Sleep apnea is a type of sleep disorder that causes a person to momentarily stop breathing during their sleep. One of the main symptoms of this condition is loud snoring. In our two part series on sleep apnea we’re covering the causes, symptoms and treatments for this disorder that continues to plague the sleep of Americans from all backgrounds.
Experts estimate that 22 million Americans suffer from the sleeping disorder known as sleep apnea. They also estimate that a shocking 80 percent of moderate and severe cases of sleep apnea continue to go undiagnosed. Unfortunately, a lot of people are unaware that such a sleep disorder even exists. Even for those that are aware, there’s still a lot of misunderstanding about what exactly sleep apnea is – from its causes and symptoms to effects and remedies.
For part two of our “More Than a Snore” series we’ll cover different some of the different treatments and lifestyle changes you can make to help alleviate symptoms of sleep apnea and overcome this disorder. Before we get into how to fight sleep apnea, we’ll provide you with a brief overview of what we went over in part one.
Missed Part One? Click here to read More Than a Snore, Part One!
In part one we reviewed the different symptoms that may reveal this underdiagnosed disorder. Symptoms of sleep apnea include most noticeably loud snoring. This loud snoring that’s associated with sleep apnea is caused by the obstruction of the airway. Other symptoms of sleep apnea are loud gasps for breath during sleep, dry mouth and a headache upon waking, difficulty staying asleep, difficulty paying attention while awake, irritability and periods where you stop breathing during sleep. While you may be able to catch some of these symptoms on your own, more often than not, concerns about sleep apnea are actually raised by a loved one who notices these behaviors while the person is asleep.
Sleep apnea is a potentially serious disorder. While snoring is usually the most noticeable symptom, the disruptions caused to a person’s sleep cycles can be detrimental to their waking life. Even more alarming are the potential life threatening risks that could result from an episode during which a person stops breathing and fails to wake themselves up.
There are different forms of sleep apnea, some of which can be alleviated by making lifestyle changes and others that require medical intervention. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form and occurs when a person’s throat muscles relax to the point where the airway becomes partially blocked and airflow is restricted during sleep. This type of sleep apnea can be caused or worsened by various factors. Obesity, drug and alcohol use and smoking are factors that are within your control that can cause or worsen the occurrence of obstructive sleep apnea. If any of these are the causes of your sleep apnea, then simple lifestyle changes can reverse the occurrence of sleep apnea and lessen its effects.
However, obstructive sleep apnea isn’t always caused by lifestyle factors. There are some biological factors that may be causing or contributing to sleep apnea and its effects that may be outside of your control. Family history, neck circumference and having a more narrow throat are all characteristics that could play a role in whether or not you suffer from sleep apnea. When this is the case for a patient, then lifestyle changes usually aren’t a viable option. In cases of obstructive sleep apnea that are caused by genetic characteristics, there are a few ways a doctor would be able to help alleviate symptoms or even rid a person of this sleep disorder.
For patients suffering from obstructive sleep apnea there are a few different treatment options to choose from. The Center for Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery offers these options at their offices to residents in and around Rock Hill, Lancaster and Fort Mill, SC. One non-surgical option that doctors might have a patient start out with is the use of a CPAP machine during sleep. A CPAP machine is a nasal mask that delivers pressurized oxygen to a person while they sleep to limit the amount of obstruction that is experienced. One of the surgical options to resolve obstructive sleep apnea is uvulo-palato-pharyngo-plasty (UPPP). This surgery is performed on the back of the soft palate and throat. Another surgical option that is somewhat similar to a UPPP procedure is a laser assisted uvulo-palato-plasty, or LAUPP. A third option involves the use of a radio-frequency probe to tighten the soft palate and prevent obstructions from occurring. These surgical options are completed in office under a light IV sedation to ensure zero discomfort.
The Center for Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery serves the areas of Rock Hill, SC, Lancaster, SC and Fort Mill, SC and offers consultations for patients who believe they are suffering from sleep apnea. It’s important that if you believe you are suffering from sleep apnea to be seen by a medical professional that can determine the type of sleep apnea you are experiencing and the potential causes.
To make the best recommendations for treatment, the team at the Center for Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery will assess patients’ symptoms. This normally begins with a consultation that consists of reviewing personal and family history before moving onto a physical exam. The purpose of the
To make the best recommendations for treatment, the team at the Center for Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery will assess patients’ symptoms. This normally begins with a consultation that consists of reviewing personal and family history before moving onto a physical exam. The purpose of the physical exam is to assess a patient’s anatomic relationships in the maxillofacial region (face, mouth and jaws). A skull x-ray is also taken to determine the level of obstruction a patient is experiencing. To get a full understanding of the extent of sleep apnea a person is experiencing a doctor might refer them to a sleep study to obtain information on the amount of cardiovascular and respiratory stress they are experiencing during sleep.
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Sleep apnea often goes undetected, but hopefully by understanding the symptoms and causes you will be more prepared to recognize this disorder if you or a loved one are exhibiting signs. If you suspect that you may be suffering from sleep apnea, schedule a consultation with the Center for Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. They will be able to determine if you are suffering from sleep apnea and if so, they will be able to diagnose which form of sleep apnea you have and what the best course of treatment would be for you.
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