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What's the treatment to stop sleep apnea?

Treatment for sleep apnea is determined based on the individual's specific circumstances and characteristics and can include behavioral changes, physical or mechanical therapy and surgery. Medication is not usually an effective treatment for sleep apnea. Therapies that have shown to be helpful are listed below:

Behavior Therapy – Behavioral changes are an important part of the treatment for sleep apnea, especially in cases where a specific cause can be identified. Weight loss is the simplest treatment for obstructive sleep apnea in obese patients. Even a modest 10 percent weight loss may eliminate apneic episodes by reducing the mass of the posterior airway. Unfortunately, however, this treatment option is usually not successful because only a small fraction of people can permanently lose weight. Similarly, avoiding the use of alcohol, tobacco and sleeping pills can reduce the likelihood of airway closure during the night. Others who only experience sleep apnea when they sleep on their backs can benefit from special pillows or folk remedies that encourage side sleeping.

Physical or Mechanical Therapy – Nasal continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is often recommended for sleep apnea. CPAP treatment is used in most patients who have obstructive sleep apnea. With CPAP, the patient wears a snugly fitting nasal mask attached to a fan that blows air into the nostrils to keep the airway open during sleep. Because most people sleep with their mouth closed, the mouth usually does not have to be covered, but a chin strap can be used if necessary. Sneezing and rhinorrhea are mild but common complications of CPAP but can usually be alleviated with steroid nasal sprays. Some patients develop dry mucus membranes from the continuous positive air flow. This problem may be reduced by humidification. Another frequent problem is dermal irritation from the mask rubbing the face. Dermal irritation is most commonly reduced by changing the mask size or trying a different kind of mask.

Surgery – Surgery to increase the size of the airway is sometimes recommended. Younger patients especially may benefit from the removal of tonsils or adenoids. Other surgeries may reduce excess tissue at the back of the throat or reconstruct the jaw. Surgical procedures are not without risk and it isn't uncommon to have to undergo more than one before experiencing any positive results. The most common surgery is called UPPP, for uvulopalatopharngyoplasty. This surgery removes tissue from the rear of the mouth and top of the throat. The tissues removed include parts of the uvula (the flap of tissue that hangs down at the back of the mouth), the soft palate, and the pharynx. Tonsils and adenoids are usually removed in this operation. This operation significantly improves sleep apnea in slightly more than half of all cases. When other forms of treatment are not successful, obstructive sleep apnea may be treated by a tracheostomy. In this procedure, an opening is made into the trachea (windpipe) below the obstruction, and a tube inserted to maintain an air passage. A tracheostomy requires a great deal of care to prevent infection of the tracheostomy site. In addition, since air is no longer being filtered and moistened by the nasal passages before entering the lungs, the lower airways can become dry and susceptible to infection as well. Tracheostomy is usually reserved for those whose apnea has led to life-threatening heart arrhythmias, and who have not been treated successfully with other treatments.

Oxygen Administration – In certain cases of central apnea caused by heart failure, oxygen administration can be helpful in allowing the patient to sleep safely through the night. Supplemental nighttime oxygen can be useful for some people with either central and obstructive sleep apnea. Oxygen administration, while ensuring that the person gets enough oxygen, does not improve the quality of sleep – the person will still experience waking episodes and daytime sleepiness.

More information on sleep apnea

What is sleep apnea? - Sleep apnea is a disorder in which a person stops breathing during the night. Sleep apnea means cessation of breath characterized by repetitive episodes of upper airway obstruction.
What types of sleep apnea are there? - There are three types of sleep apnea, including obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), central sleep apnea, mixed sleep apnea.
What is obstructive sleep apnea? - Obstructive sleep apnea is a disorder in which complete or partial obstruction of the airway during sleep causes loud snoring, oxyhemoglobin desaturations and frequent arousals.
What causes obstructive sleep apnea? - Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by repetitive upper airway obstruction during sleep as a result of narrowing of the respiratory passages.
What're the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea? - Symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea include loud snoring, Daytime sleepiness, memory changes, depression, and irritability.
What is central sleep apnea? - Central sleep apnea is a sleep breathing disorder that occurs when the brain fails to send the appropriate signals to the breathing muscles to initiate respirations.
What causes central sleep apnea? - Conditions that can cause sentral sleep apnea include bulbar poliomyelitis, encephalitis affecting the brainstem, neurodegenerative illnesses.
What're the symptoms of central sleep apnea? - Symptoms of central sleep apnea include extreme exhaustion and sleepiness during daylight hours, early morning headaches, lack of concentration, and memory loss.
What are the risk factors for sleep apnea? - There are several factors that may predispose a person towards sleep apnea, including gender, age, ethnicity, geography, obesity, immune abnormalities.
What are the complications of sleep apnea? - Sleep apnea is a potentially life-threatening condition because there are interruptions in breathing during sleep.
How is sleep apnea diagnosed? - A sleep test, called polysomnography is done to diagnose sleep apnea. Confirmation of the diagnosis requires making measurements while the person sleeps.
What's the treatment to stop sleep apnea? - Treatment for sleep apnea is determined based on the individual's specific circumstances and can include behavioral changes, physical therapy and surgery.
What surgeries are available to cure sleep apnea? - Surgeries to stop sleep apnea include uvulopalatopharyngoplasty, laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty, tracheostomy, radiofrequency ablation.
What about the CPAP therapy for sleep apnea? - The most effective treatment for sleep apnea is nasal continuous positive airflow pressure (CPAP) therapy.
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