Conditions We Treat: Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Millions of adults and children — even some babies — snore while sleeping, and many of them may suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, which can impact quality of life. At ENT, Sinus & Hearing Care Center, our highly trained team is experienced with treating sleep disorders. Learn more about obstructive sleep apnea and how we can help.

 

What Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea is a common disorder characterized by interrupted breathing or shallow breaths during slumber. The tongue, soft palate, or tonsils collapse onto the back of the throat, potentially blocking or obstructing the airway. This can lead to weak or stopped breathing.

During episodes of blockage or obstruction, the person may look as if they’re trying to breathe, their chest moving up and down, but no air is being exchanged within the lungs.

Often these episodes conclude with a gasp and a period of awakening. Periods of blockage occur regularly throughout the night and result in a poor, interrupted sleep pattern.

Sometimes the inability to circulate air and oxygen in and out of the lungs results in lowered blood oxygen levels. If the pattern continues, the lungs and heart can suffer permanent damage.

 
A diagram of a boy's airway becoming obstructed while sleeping

 

What Are Some Symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

Symptoms may differ per individual, but some of the most common ones include:

  • Loud snoring or noisy breathing during sleep
  • Periods of not breathing — though the chest wall is moving, no air or oxygen is moving through the nose and mouth into the lungs
  • Mouth breathing — the passage to the nose may be completely blocked by enlarged tonsils and adenoids
  • Restlessness during sleep — with or without periods of being awake
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness or irritability due to poor sleep quality
  • Daytime hyperactivity

 

What Are the Risk Factors for Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

Many factors can contribute to obstructive sleep apnea. In children, the most common cause is enlarged tonsils or adenoids. This lymph tissue — located in the back and to the sides of the throat in the upper airway — can grow too large relative to the size of the airway and may block it during sleep.

One of the more common contributors to obstructive sleep apnea in adults is obesity, but the condition can affect those with normal weight as well.

A few other potential risk factors include:

  • Family history
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Down syndrome
  • High blood pressure
  • Chronic nasal congestion
  • Tumor or growth in the airway

 

How Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea Diagnosed?

Our expert otolaryngologist, Dr. Daniel S. Samadi, who specializes in disorders of the ear, nose, and throat, will conduct an examination that includes a complete medical history and physical evaluation.

The diagnostic evaluation may also include:

  • A sleep history, including a detailed report from parents or caretaker in the case of children
  • Evaluation of the upper airway
  • A sleep study or polysomnography, the best test available for diagnosing obstructive sleep apnea

 

What Are Potential Long-Term Effects of the Condition?

Obstructive sleep apnea can impact more than just your sleeping. Long-term effects of untreated sleep apnea can include conditions such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Depression

 

How Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea Treated?

The most common treatment for obstructive sleep apnea is a continuous positive airway pressure machine or CPAP, which uses a mask, hose, and pressurized air to keep your airway open while you sleep.

In some cases, surgery may be recommended to address the obstructive sleep apnea. The procedures vary, but they’re all essentially aimed to help prevent the airway from narrowing or closing during sleep.

Some examples of procedures include:

  • Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty
  • Thermal ablation palatoplasty
  • Tonsillectomy
  • Adenoidectomy
  • Genioglossus and hyoid advancement
  • Tongue-base reduction
  • Nasal surgery

Treatments may vary per patient. Our expert team can explain the most appropriate options and work with you to determine the best solution for your individual needs.

If you or a loved one is experiencing potential symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea, it’s important to seek professional medical attention. Don’t wait. Contact ENT, Sinus & Hearing Care Center to schedule an evaluation today. Early intervention can make a big difference in your total health and wellness.

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