Sleep apnea is a condition involving inconsistent breathing during sleep—people with this disorder stop and start breathing repeatedly during the night. It can have very serious effects on a person’s health. Patients with sleep apnea may struggle with fatigue, high blood pressure, heart problems, and much more. That’s why it’s important to familiarize yourself with the signs and symptoms of this condition. Because it affects patients when they are asleep, many people don’t realize they have sleep apnea until other conditions develop as a result.
Luckily, there are several treatment options for sleep apnea. While some involve wearing special devices during sleep, there are instances in which oral surgery is the best option, depending on the nature of the patient’s sleep apnea.
Do you suspect you have sleep apnea? Have you recently been diagnosed with it? If so, odds are good you may have some questions. Don’t feel shy about bringing these up with your doctor or oral surgeon. Part of their job involves addressing patient concerns. They’ll be happy to discuss the topic with you.
In the meantime, the following are answers to common questions people have about sleep apnea.
What risk factors contribute to sleep apnea?
Some people are more likely to develop this condition than others. Factors that can increase a person’s risk of developing sleep apnea include being obese, having a large neck circumference, being male (although anyone can develop the condition), consuming alcohol or sedatives, smoking, having chronic nasal congestion, and being over the age of 50. People with a family history of the disorder are also at higher risk.
It’s possible to exercise control over some of these factors. If you’re obese, you can take steps to reduce your weight by exercising more frequently and eating a healthier diet. If you smoke, you can get help quitting.
Of course, there are also risk factors you have little control over. That’s why it’s important to coordinate with medical professionals if you suspect you have this condition or have been already diagnosed with it. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can cure yourself simply by changing your lifestyle. Additional treatment may be necessary.
Why is treatment essential?
Again, because sleep apnea may not seem to directly affect your waking life, you might assume it isn’t necessary to pursue treatment. Patients may decide not to go about the process of identifying an effective treatment when they believe the condition is only a minor nuisance.
However, remember that sleep apnea genuinely does have an impact on your wellbeing, even if you don’t realize it. The health conditions associated with sleep apnea can be fatal. In addition, because people with sleep apnea often struggle with fatigue, they tend to be less productive than they would like to be in their daily lives. Your general quality of life obviously also suffers when you’re tired all the time.
It’s worth noting that sleep apnea can have a negative impact on your relationship with your romantic partner. That’s because people with this condition often snore so frequently and loudly that they prevent their partners from getting restful sleep. It’s not uncommon for the partner of a person with sleep apnea to sleep in a separate room or even on another floor of the house.
While staying healthy should be your main reason for seeking treatment, keep in mind that your condition may also be affecting your partner. In addition, your children or other family members may be affected if you’re consistently too tired to maintain your responsibilities to them.
How is sleep apnea diagnosed?
Sometimes physicians diagnose this condition simply by assessing a patient’s symptoms and determining sleep apnea must be the cause. However, if your doctor suspects you have sleep apnea, it’s likely they will refer you to a sleep specialist for confirmation.
The process of diagnosing sleep apnea may involve sleeping overnight at a medical clinic. Typically, you’ll wear sensors that will monitor your heart rate, breathing, brain activity, blood oxygen levels, and other vital signs while you sleep. There are also sleep tests you can take home with you in some instances. If your doctor recommends one of these, be sure to follow their directions carefully to get an accurate reading.
How does oral surgery help?
Oral surgery isn’t necessary or appropriate for all people with sleep apnea. The specific nature of your case will help your physician determine the proper treatment—it depends on what exactly is obstructing your breathing at night.
That said, many patients with the condition benefit from oral surgery procedures. In some cases, this will involve repositioning the jaw so the airway in your throat isn’t blocked. Other procedures involve removing and/or repositioning tissue in the upper airway to alleviate a blockage, as in the case of uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP), which may target the tonsils, adenoids, uvula, soft palate, or pharynx. In severe cases, a new airway must be created. This procedure is called a tracheostomy and is typically reserved for patients whose sleep apnea is life-threatening. In most cases, medical professionals try non-surgical treatments and interventions before recommending surgery.
The points here have hopefully addressed some of your sleep apnea questions. However, if you still have concerns, remember to discuss them with your doctor or oral surgeon. This is worth keeping in mind if you need any form of oral surgery. When you fully understand your condition, you’ll be much more comfortable with your treatment.