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Are Sleep Apnea Treatments Invasive?
It is no secret that sleeping disorders can have significant negative impact on a person's health, but one disorder that often goes overlooked is sleep apnea. This condition, otherwise known as obstructive sleep apnea, occurs when a person's breathing is briefly interrupted during sleep. This occurs when the throat muscles fail to keep the airway open despite the brain's attempt to get oxygen to the body. Studies have shown that OSA can cause fragmented sleep and low oxygen levels, which in turn can lead to heart disease, hypertension and mood and memory disorders.
Causes and symptoms of sleep apnea
Though the consequences of sleep apnea are fairly conclusive, the verdict is still out on what exactly causes it. Studies suggest that a number of factors may contribute to a person's risk for developing this sleeping disorder, including being overweight; having a small upper airway or large tonsils, tongue or uvula; having a large neck; having a recessed chin, small jaw or overbite; smoking and alcohol use; being over the age of 40 and ethnicity. There is evidence, too, that suggest OSA has a genetic basis.
The symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea are also symptoms of several other conditions, thereby making it difficult to diagnose without proper testing. Moreover, the symptoms are generally not severe, which is why many people do not suspect anything is amiss until a major event such as a heart attack or high blood pressure occurs. To ensure the condition never escalates to this point, individuals should recognize the signs of OSA and seek treatment. Some symptoms include the following:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Waking up feeling tired, despite getting 8 hours of sleep
- Sexual dysfunction
- Memory and learning difficulties
If left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to depression, high blood pressure, heart attack, cardiac arrhythmia, congestive heart failure or stroke.
Sleep apnea treatment options
If a sleep study reveals that a person has sleep apnea, there are a few treatment options. The most common methods are noninvasive, while surgical options are minimally invasive.
Noninvasive treatment options for OSA
The most common and generally effective noninvasive treatment option for OSA is a continuous positive airway pressure device. The CPAP is a mask that gets situated over a patient's nose and mouth and continuously pumps air into the airway to keep it open at night.
Two other noninvasive treatment methods for this disorder include dental appliances and nasal expiratory positive airway pressure. Beyond those three options, there are a few minimally invasive surgical options.
Minimally invasive treatment options for OSA
Most dentists only recommend a minimally invasive treatment option if a patient does not respond well to CPAP or one of the other noninvasive methods. The two main surgical options for OSA are upper airway surgery, which involves removing tissue in the airway, and hypoglossal nerve stimulation. The latter option involves implanting a stimulator in the patient's chest. The stimulator then controls the hypoglossal nerve, which controls tongue movement.
If you feel groggy after a good night's sleep, have trouble concentrating, are irritable for no reason or show other signs of sleep apnea, talk to your dentist about undergoing a sleep study. A qualified dentist can then recommend appropriate treatment.
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