Over the past decade, Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) has become more well-known due to the associated health risks and deaths associated with untreated sleep apnea. Almost fifty percent of healthy adults snore occasionally, while half of them are habitual snorers. Many times, the problem afflicts individuals who are overweight. If the problem is not treated it typically gets worse with age. Douglas Holmes, MD, founder and medical director of ENT and Audiology Associates in Raleigh has been helping treat patients who suffer from snoring and sleep apnea for the past 15 years.
Sleep apnea is a common disorder that causes affected individuals to stop breathing for short periods of time while asleep. While the effects are the same, there are two primary varieties of the condition: obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and central sleep apnea (CSA), which differentiate in their root causes. Regardless of the type of sleep apnea from which you suffer, it is important to be professionally diagnosed and treated to avoid further complications.
What happens when you fall asleep?
When you fall asleep your body undergoes many physiological changes during your sleep cycle including changes that affect your breathing. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs when the soft palate sags and the tongue relaxes while sliding back, which can partially obstruct the upper airway. When the obstruction is severe enough to decrease the amount of air obstructing the lungs, it is called hypopnea. If the upper airway collapses, blocking the airflow by 80% or more, it is called an apnea. Hypopnea and apneas last 10 seconds or more and can greatly reduce the amount of oxygen in your blood despite your continued efforts to breath.
What are some symptoms of sleep apnea?
The most noticeable symptom of OSA is loud, chronic snoring. During an apneic episode, there is an increase in the level of carbon dioxide in the blood. This build up triggers a defense mechanism in the brain which jolts the body into resuming normal breathing. In mild sleep apnea, the number of apneas is 10 per hour on average. In severe sleep apnea, it can be 40 or more per hour.
Are there any risks to not treating sleep apnea?
Sleep disorders, like sleep apnea, have become a significant health issue in the United States. It is estimated that 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, with 80 percent of the cases of moderate and severe obstructive sleep apnea undiagnosed.
If left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to a higher risk of life-threatening conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. and is a factor in many traffic accidents and accidents with heavy machinery, owing to the persistent drowsiness suffered by many sleep apnea patients before the disease is recognized and treated.
What treatment options are available for snoring and sleep apnea sufferers?
Until recently, treatment options have been limited to painful and invasive nose and throat surgeries and bulky CPAP and oral appliances which require patients to wear every time they sleep. At ENT and Audiology Associates, Douglas Holmes, MD will meet with you to individualize a treatment plan that is right for you and your condition. At ENT and Audiology Associates, we believe in finding the least invasive ways to help improve a patient’s quality of life. One procedure, Radiofrequency Ablation of the Tongue Base, has been found to be superior to any other treatment for sleep apnea. The procedure was developed 10 years ago and continues to be performed with great success.