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Sleep Apnea Evaluation and Treatment

Sleep Apnea Evaluation and Therapeutics

Sleep apnea is a common, but serious and potentially life-threatening disorder in which breathing is repeatedly interrupted while sleeping. People who suffer from the disease stop and start breathing repeatedly and their rest is interrupted as many as 20 to 30 times or more per hour. Interruption of breathing causes low levels of oxygen and high levels of carbon dioxide in the blood. The imbalance of oxygen and carbon dioxide causes awakening of the patient and signals the brain to open the airway and resume breathing often with a loud choking or snoring sound. Many times, people are awakened by breathing disruptions with the sensation of chocking or gasping for air, however often they are not. This leads a person to suffer unknowingly. Leaving this disorder undiagnosed is especially daunting and alarming since it can contribute to so many serious medical problems and or even death. One of the more common complications of interrupted slumber is extreme fatigue and daytime drowsiness. Extreme fatigue often has consequences and leads to complications; underperformance at work or school, motor vehicle accidents, sexual dysfunction, depression, and anxiety are a few to name. If it is left untreated, it can lead to more serious health issues such as heart attack, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart failure. It is common in all age groups and both sexes, but it is more usual in men.


It is caused by abnormalities in the structure and or function of the muscles of the throat, central nervous system issues, or a combination of both.There are three types: Obstructive which happens when the tongue and throat muscles relax and obstruct the airway during slumber. Central which is when signals from the brain responsible for controlling the breathing during periods of rest are disturbed and not communicated properly.Complex syndrome is a combination of both the obstructive and central nervous system issues.


Patient often wake themselves or their partners up by snoring or gasping. If you suspect you might suffer from sleep apnea, a diagnosis by a medical professional is necessary. To properly diagnose this serious disease a study is needed. The test is conducted during regular resting hours at a testing facility or a patient’s home. Depending on the severity of the problem, the patient is either referred to a testing center or is offered an at-home testing kit.During the test at a clinic the patient is connected to a machine that keeps track of breathing, blood oxygen levels, brain-wave activity, and leg movements. At-home testing kits provide equipment that monitors heart rate, blood oxygen level, airflow and breathing patterns. The results from the test help diagnosis and its severity.

Treatment Options

Treatment options are tailored to the individual based on the results of the test and the patient’s medical history. Treatment options often consist of a combination of behavioral and physical/mechanical therapy. In some cases, surgery is needed. Although snoring is not always related to apnea, people who develop or have the illness snore loudly and are overweight. If the patient suffers mild to moderate symptoms, simply losing weight can help achieve great results and eliminate the illness over time. Simple lifestyle changes can help manage it as well. Behavioral changes such as avoiding alcohol, tobacco, and tranquilizers have a tremendous effect. These substances are likely to cause the airway to collapse so avoiding them make a big difference. In some cases, obstruction of the airway happens when the individual is on their back during slumber and using pillows to help lay in a side position is helpful.

Physical and Mechanical therapy

Since losing weight is relatively a slow and/or difficult process, in the meantime assistive treatment options are often necessary to help the patients cope with this condition.

One effective treatment option is called nasal continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). It is a machine that creates negative air-pressure to assist the airways to stay open during slumber. The machine sits by the bed and is connected to a mask by a hose. The patient wears the mask over their nose and air from an air blower passes through the nasal passage and forces the airway to stay open and prevents it from collapsing. CPAP is only effective if used properly and as directed. Some people adapt to it easily and quickly and some need help to find the suitable machine, mask and pressure setting by their prescribing physician. Your doctor can assist in selecting the right equipment and pressure setting.

Dental Appliances are another mechanical treatment option. An off bite or abnormal positioning of the jaw can be a contributing factor relating to the disease. Dental appliances are prescribed and worn by patients to reposition the jaw. These devices bring the jaw up and forward this repositioning of the jaw helps keep the airway open and prevents it from collapsing.

Surgery as treatment

Some patients with structural issues and abnormalities in the nose, jaw and throat might benefit from surgery. There are different types of surgeries which depend on what is causing the problem: surgery to remove the tonsils and/or adenoids, surgery to corrects a deviated nose septum, surgery to correct positioning of the jaw, and surgery that stimulate the nerve that causes the tongue to push forward during sleep. A patient might need one or a combination of these procedures to achieve results. These surgeries, when done successfully, can get rid of the apnea all together.

This common and serious medical condition that needs prompt diagnosis and care. If left untreated it will lower quality of life, leads to serious health issue, and can even cause death so getting prompt care and treatment is crucial.

What we can do for you

Our experienced providers will discuss your symptoms and risk factors with you to determine if you are suffering from sleep apnea. In mild cases, we may just recommend lifestyle changes and help you achieve a goal weight, quit smoking, and increase physical activity. We will also determine if your apnea is being caused by nasal issues and allergies, which can be easily treated. If your symptoms are moderate to severe there is a special machine patients sleep with that help keep their airways open it is called a CPAP (Continuous positive airway pressure).  Our trusted professionals will discuss the CPAP option with you and provide resources about how to use and clean your CPAP devise. In extreme cases, surgery may be the only option. Severity of your condition will be assessed during your visit.

Did you know...

some sprains and strains – such as those caused by falling on a foot or twisting a knee – are accidental and difficult to prevent. Others – such as those caused by lifting heavy objects the wrong way – can be prevented with proper training. The National Institutes of Health recommend stretching prior to physical activity, as well as wearing protective equipment during play to prevent sports injuries. It is also important to avoid overuse injuries by taking the time to rest tired and sore muscles.