Obstructive sleep apnea is a common form of apnea, defined as the cessation of breathing during sleep.
The muscles in the body relax during sleep. However, if the muscles at the back of the throat relax too much and then collapse, they will block air from entering the lungs, causing a lack of oxygen.
When the brain senses that the body is deprived of oxygen, it will make your body gasp for air and take a stand, waking you up and breathing normally.
Some people may experience this condition only once or twice a night. This condition is known as sleep apnea (sleep apnea).
Others may share it so often that it causes them to be sleep-deprived and feel tired in the morning. It is called obstructive sleep apnea.
Obstructive sleep apnea deprives your organs of the oxygen they need, leading to complications such as an irregular heartbeat.
However, with proper treatment, these can avoid these complications.
Infants, children, and adults can have obstructive sleep apnea. In infants and children, the most common cause is swollen tonsils.
In adults, obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the tonsils enlarge and block the passage of breath.
Too much tissue at the back of the throat, such as the uvula and soft palate, can cause obstructive sleep apnea.
Other causes are a tongue larger than average or a deviated septum.
Although the cause of sleep apnea is known, several factors can put a person at a higher risk of having this problem, such as:
- Heredity – If a person inherits a narrow airway, the risk of having this problem is high
- Thick neck – If your neck is greater than 17 inches for men and 16 inches for women, you may have obstructive sleep apnea. A thick neck is usually synonymous with a narrow breath.
- Age – Although people of any age can develop obstructive sleep apnea, the problem is more common in those aged 18 to 60.
- Family History
- Nasal congestion
- Gender – Obstructive sleep apnea is more common in men than women.
If left unchecked, the chances of complications can increase. These include fatigue throughout the day, heart problems, difficulties with drugs and surgery requiring general anaesthesia, and eye problems.
Obstructive sleep apnea usually presents various symptoms; the most common is loud snoring.
Another common symptom is sleep deprivation, which results in excessive daytime sleepiness, morning headaches, mood swings, irritability, and even depression.
Many people don’t care about their condition, but they should care. Obstructive sleep apnea usually causes various health problems, some of which can be life-threatening.
If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above, you should consult a general practitioner or family doctor.
Types of Treatments Available
Patients suspected of having obstructive sleep apnea should consult a family doctor or a doctor who can provide an examination or make a referral to a sleep specialist, depending on the severity of the condition.
A physical exam will be conducted, including assessing abnormalities and checking the patient’s blood pressure, weight and neck circumference.
After a physical exam, the doctor will focus on determining the severity of the condition by performing polysomnography. This test records heart and breathing rates, blood oxygen levels, brain and leg waves, and eye movements.
Once the patient’s condition is identified, the doctor will formulate a customized treatment plan or if there is a blockage in the throat or nose, refer the patient to an ENT specialist.
The most common forms of treatment for obstructive sleep apnea are devices such as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), mouthpieces, and medications that can reduce daytime sleepiness.
Surgery will be recommended if these treatments fail to treat the condition.
The most common forms of surgery are Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (removal of tissue at the back of the throat), jaw surgery (involves moving the jawbone forward), and Pillar surgery (which involves placing a small implant in the soft palate or making a surgical hole in the neck).
Pillar surgery will only be performed if other surgical procedures fail to treat the condition and obstructive sleep apnea has progressed to a life-threatening situation.
This surgery also called a tracheostomy, involves inserting a metal or plastic tube through an opening in the neck so air can pass through the blocked part of the throat.