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Symptoms of and Treatment for Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Posted May 14 2013 4:08am

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a condition in which your breathing is pauses or decreases when you are asleep. It is caused by the narrowing or blocking of the airway. During sleep, the tissues in the upper throat collapse at different times, blocking the passage of air. When the breath pauses for more than ten seconds, it is called apnea.

This disorder, characterized by periodic, partial or complete obstruction of the upper airway, affects adults and even young children. The older you are, the more likely you are to have sleep apnea. It is crucial to identify the symptoms and treat the condition as it can cause life-threatening health problems such as a heart attack, a stroke or high blood pressure.

Symptoms

Often, patients are not aware they have had an episode of breath obstruction. In adults, sleep apnea symptoms may include

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Morning headaches
  • Irritability and impaired mental or emotional functioning
  • Loud and chronic snoring with pauses in breathing
  • Night-time chest pain
  • Restless sleep
  • Memory loss
The affected person may also wake up with a dry mouth or sore throat.

Children with this condition may exhibit the following symptoms
  • Bed wetting
  • Hyperactivity or inattention
  • Failure to grow and gain weight
  • Excessive sweating at night
  • Poor school performance
  • Strange sleeping positions
Treatment

Obstructive sleep apnea has to be treated by a certified sleep medicine physician. A polysomnogram or a sleep study is first conducted which would include an ECG, EEG, EMG and mouth and nasal airflow examination to determine the severity of the condition. Surgery may be necessary to set right the anatomic cause of the night-time airway obstruction. Plastic surgery centers offer the following procedures to reduce airflow resistance and open the airways:

Tracheostomy: A tube is inserted through a permanent hole made in the windpipe to bypass the site of upper airway obstruction. The tube is capped during the day time and the patient breathes and speaks normally. Before sleep, the plug is removed to allow direct breathing through the tube. Long-term issues associated with this procedure may include tracheal stenosis, bleeding and recurrent bronchitis.

Tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy: This is the first line treatment for OSA in children. It involves the removal of tonsils and adenoids to reduce sleep-related breathing disorders.

Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP): One of the most common sleep apnea treatment surgeries in U.S, this procedure is beneficial for patients with excessive soft tissue in the throat. The tonsils are removed and the walls of the pharynx are tightened. This treatment reduces the severity of OSA by widening the airway.

Genioglossus advancement: The collapsibility of the tongue that contributes to obstruction of the airway can be improved with genioglossus advancement.

Hyoid myotomy: This procedure advances the muscles of the tongue base forward, which serves to pull the tongue base away from the back of the throat and enlarge the airway.

Maxillomandibular advancement (MMA): With a high success rate, this procedure not only improves sleep apnea, but also treats a number of medical problems associated with this disorder. The bones of both the upper and lower jaw are cut and advanced forward.

Distraction osteogenesis: This treatment involves the distraction of the lower jaw to clear airway obstruction. It is commonly performed on neonates and children with Pierre Robin sequence, Treacher Collins syndrome, and hemifacial microsomia.

To treat obstructive sleep apnea effectively, find an expert plastic surgeon with vast experience in the field.

 

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