People with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) have disrupted sleep and low blood oxygen levels. When obstructive sleep apnea occurs, the tongue falls against the back of the throat with inspiration. This blocks the upper airway and airflow stops. When the oxygen level in the brain becomes low enough, the sleeper partially awakens, the obstruction in the throat clears and the flow of air starts again, usually with a loud gasp. Repeated cycles of decreased oxygenation lead to very serious cardiovascular problems. Additionally, these individuals suffer from excessive daytime sleepiness, depression, and loss of concentration. Some patients have obstructions that are less severe called Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS). In either case, the individuals suffer many of the same symptoms.
Chronic loud snoring is one of the most common symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea, and in fact the louder and more chronic the snoring is, the greater the likelihood of OSA. If you are regularly tired during the day even though you have had sufficient sleep or if your snoring is paired with choking or gasping sound, you may have sleep apnea. Heavy snoring may be associated with OSA, which can be a serious sleep disorder and a risk factor for heart disease, stroke, diabetes and many other health problems. Seek a consultation with a sleep expert to assess the snoring problem so that an action plan can be developed.
The first step in treatment resides in recognition of the symptoms and seeking appropriate consultation. In addition to a detailed history, our doctors will assess the anatomic relationships in the maxillofacial region. Sometimes a naso-pharyngeal exam is done with a flexible fiber-optic camera. To confirm the amount of cardiovascular compromise and decreased oxygenation levels, a sleep study may be recommended to monitor individuals overnight. There are several treatment options available. An initial treatment may consist of using a nasal CPAP machine that delivers pressurized oxygen through a nasal mask to limit obstruction at night. One of the surgical options is a uvulo-palato-pharyngo-plasty (UPPP), which is performed in the back of the soft palate and throat.