Sleep Apnea – Treatment Overviews (July 13, 2017)

Obstructive sleep apnea is a disorder that interrupts the sleep of millions of Americans every night, and moreover, if left untreated, can be very dangerous. There are many things that can help people with sleep apnea find permanent relief, and some of those are not always the easiest solutions. One solution is for people who are overweight or obese that are suffering from sleep apnea is for them to lose weight. Another option is using continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) or a similar machine can help keep the airway open while someone sleeps to help them breathe. Oral breathing devices such as nasal dilators can be worn at night to ensure breathing is regulated. There are medications that people can take to help them stay awake during the day when there is no device on their body to help them breathe. There are also surgeries in some cases that can help relieve the pressure and restore breathing while the person is sleeping.

The first steps will usually come with lifestyle changes (for weight loss) and CPAP devices to see if that helps treat the sleep apnea as those are the least invasive and least costly options overall. Surgery will only be the case in a situation where there is a blockage that is causing the problem that can be easily fixed.

In almost every case, CPAP will be the first treatment the offer someone with sleep apnea. Using CPAP means that the person has to use a breathing device at night while sleeping to keep the airway from closing while they sleep. CPAP can help decrease a person’s daytime sleepiness (due to fewer interruptions to their rest during the night due to not being able to breathe) and can lower both daytime and nighttime blood pressures. It may take time for you to get used to the CPAP machine while sleeping, but with adjustments made to the mask to allow it to fit comfortably, you should be able to adjust to the machine in a few weeks or less.

Oral breathing devices are also available for conditions in which they fit the situation. These devices simply reposition your tongue during sleep so the airway is left open so breathing is made easier. This is for people who have more mild-to-moderate sleep apnea. People who have severe sleep apnea will often find that this does not work as well for them. Your doctor may also suggest you use a nasal dilator in conjunction with the oral breathing device to ensure that airways are open and allowing you to breathe freely and fully while sleeping. Many of these devices are able to be purchased at medical device stores and you likely won’t even need a prescription for such devices.

Sometimes, these are not the only solutions for sleep apnea, and other conditions may be implicating your sleeping patterns. Sometimes people will find out that they are having inflamed nasal passages (rhinitis) and a nasal spray to help decrease the inflammation is the answer to their issues. People may also possess an underactive thyroid gland that is causing this problem and they will need some medication to restore the function of the thyroid to normal.

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The Ramona Dentistry Team

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