As soon as a patient is diagnosed with sleep apnea, the first questions that start to bother him or her are: how soon do I get some respite? What are the sleep apnea treatment options? How do I make sure that I get the best option available?
Before therapies available are discussed more in detail, let us know how the therapies are selected. This knowledge can help us understand the rationale behind making those important decisions.
Sleep apnea is one of the worst sleep disorders identified by recurrent pauses in breathing during sleep. Narrowing of airways causes major obstruction in breathing. Putting on excess weight is considered to be one of the main reasons for the onset of the condition. Of course, there are strong links between sleep apnea and weight. While obesity starts the illness, the patient continues to gain extra weight during the course of the ailment which show up as both as a symptom as well as a consequence.
When does the condition set in?
Snoring left untreated is one of the main triggers for the onset. Snoring incidentally is inevitable when a person is overweight. Other than obesity, factors that trigger the onset include excessive alcohol consumption, wrong sleeping posture, nasal blockage, etc. While there are plenty of reasons for nasal blockage, deviated septum is perhaps the most common.
Septal deviation causes breathing problems like snoring, which subsequently worsens into sleep apnea.
Diagnosing the disorder
Treatment of this condition is based on the severity of the condition as well as cause for the onset. Severity is assessed with the help of polysomnography, a diagnostic procedure used to diagnose a host of sleep disorders including insomnia, hypersomnia, narcolepsy, etc.
At this stage it is important to recall that though common, this condition is one of the most undiagnosed, and often misdiagnosed. One reason for misdiagnosis to happen is because of the similarly of features amongst several sleep disorders.
For example, patients suffering from insomnia as well as narcolepsy also show signs of excessive daytime sleepiness. It also happens to be one of the hypersomnia symptoms. This can always create diagnostic dilemma. This is also one of the reasons why doctors insist on polysomnography for diagnosing the condition correctly.
What is narcolepsy? It is a disorder arising out of dysfunctional central nervous system characterized by sudden sleep attacks and frequent daytime naps. Polysomnography along with Multiple Sleep Latency Test (a test that measures daytime sleepiness) can correctly diagnose the illness by recording the speed with which a patient falls asleep during the daytime naps.
How is treatment initiated?
Before opting for any treatment method, obesity management takes topmost priority. Here obesity is not limited to body parts only; it affects muscles directly responsible for breathing (soft palate, tongue, neck, throat, etc.). Therefore, as a parallel therapeutic measure, the doctor advises special sleep apnea exercises for toning and strengthening the breathing muscles.
For treating mild to moderate conditions doctors prefer the following treatment alternatives:
– CPAP for restoration of normal breathing
– Abstinence from alcohol
– Weight loss
– Change of sleeping posture
– Using anti-snoring pillows
– Oral appliances, etc
Sleep apnea treatment involves surgery for more severe conditions. For example, deviated septum surgery is the only choice to rectify and reposition septal deviation. Somnoplasty and septoplasty are the two most preferred options.