Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is one of the most common sleeping problems. Consistently getting a bad night’s sleep can be extremely detrimental to your health, and even life threatening in some cases. If sleep apnea goes undiagnosed, the risks include: heart attack, stroke, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, heart disease, and decreased libido. People who suffer from sleep apnea are even at a higher risk for car accidents due to daytime drowsiness.

What Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)?

OSA can cause you to stop breathing hundreds of times during the night, for anywhere from a few seconds to more than a minute. Sleep apnea occurs when your muscles relax during sleep, and your tongue is forced against the back of your throat. This blocks the upper airway and disrupts airflow.

During this time, oxygen is cut off from the brain. When the levels become low enough, you partially wake up, clearing the obstruction in the throat so airflow can start again. This usually happens with a loud gasp.

Diagnosis Of OSA

Oftentimes, people don’t realize they have OSA because it can be disguised as loud snoring. Other symptoms include gasping or choking sounds during sleep. Sleep apnea is more common in men, but can occur in women too (especially during and after menopause).

In order to be diagnosed, a sleep specialist will need to perform a complete sleep evaluation. This can either be done an in overnight study at a clinic or with an at-home test.

Types Of Treatments For OSA

If non-surgical treatments for OSA don’t work for you, surgery may be your best option. Both uvolvo-palato-pharyngo-plasty (UPPP) and laser assisted uvolovo-palato-plasty (LAUPP) are procedures performed in the back of the soft palate and throat that tighten the soft palate.

A hypoid suspension secures the hypoid bone to the thyroid cartilage (Adam’s apple) to help stabilize the airway.

A genioglossus advancement (GGA) tightens the front tongue tendon. This reduces the degree of tongue displacement in the throat and helps keep it forward. Oftentimes this is performed at the same time as one of the above procedures.

In more severe cases, it may be necessary to perform a maxillomandibular advancement (MMA). This procedure realigns the upper and lower jaws along the soft tissues of the tongue and palate, opening the upper airway and allowing for clear passage.

Benefits Of Treating OSA With Surgery

  • Reduces risk for high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, chronic acid reflux, and erectile dysfuntion
  • In severe cases, decreases risk of death
  • Reduces daytime sleepiness and/or fatigue
  • Can improve memory loss and morning headaches (if those are current symptoms)

Is Surgery Right For You?

Discuss your options with your sleep specialist or oral surgeon before making any decisions. What’s right for someone else may not be right for you!