How is Sleep Apnea treated?
Physical or Mechanical Therapy
Nasal continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is the most common effective treatment for sleep apnea. In this procedure, the patient wears a mask over the nose during sleep, and pressure from an air blower forces air through the nasal passages. The air pressure is adjusted so that it is just enough to prevent the throat from collapsing during sleep. The pressure is constant and continuous. Nasal CPAP prevents airway closure while in use, but apnea episodes return when CPAP is stopped or it is used improperly.
Variations of the CPAP device attempt to minimize side effects that sometimes occur, such as nasal irritation and drying, facial skin irritation, abdominal bloating, mask leaks, sore eyes, and headaches. Some versions of CPAP vary the pressure to coincide with the person’s breathing pattern, and other CPAP start with low pressure, slowly increasing it to allow the person to fall asleep before the full prescribed pressure is applied.
Efficacy of Oral Mandibular Advancement Devices
Studies indicate that oral mandibular advancement devices are more effective than surgery for normalizing sleep. They are most effective for patients with mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea, and less effective for severe apnea. They work only when the source of obstruction is in the middle of the upper airway, however; if the obstruction occurs high or very low in the upper airway, oral devices will not be effective. While mandibular advancement devices improve sleep and reduce snoring, it is not yet clear if they help patients whose apnea is silent (without snoring). Patients tend to find oral devices easier to comply with than CPAP, and thus they are more likely to continue their use and derive benefit from mandibular advancement devices.
If you suffer from any of these symptoms and especially if your sleep partner has informed you that you appear to stop breathing or gasp for air while sleeping, seek a diagnostic evaluation. It just might let your partner get a good nights sleep and save your life.
For more information from the Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine, click here.
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