Frequently Asked Questions: Sleep Apnea

How serious is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

OSA is a serious, chronic problem that, left untreated, can contribute to numerous health problems, including:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease and stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Depression
  • Driving or work-related accidents
  • Memory loss
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Impaired concentration

Can Sleep Apnea be treated?

Yes. The goal of treatment is to open the airway and restore normal breathing during sleep and to alleviate the bothersome symptoms, such as daytime fatigue and snoring. Treatment may also help lower blood pressure and decrease risks for stroke, diabetes, and heart disease.

Conservative Treatments

In very mild cases of sleep apnea, conservative therapy may be all that is needed. These treatments include the following:

  • Weight Loss
  • Substance Cessation
  • Positional Therapy
  • Non-surgical means of addressing environmental allergies and sinus conditions

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Non-Invasive Treatments

  • Oral Appliance Therapy: Patients wear a custom-molded retainer over their top and bottom teeth while sleeping. The lower retainer is advanced forward which prevents the base of the tongue from collapsing the airway. The device also creates tone in the muscles of the airway to prevent tissues from collapsing during sleep.
  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP): Patients wear a mask over their nose and/or mouth. An air blower forces air through the nose and/or mouth. The air pressure is adjusted so that it is just enough to prevent the upper airway tissues from collapsing during sleep. The pressure can be constant and continuous, or adjustable, depending on the type of machine your physician orders. CPAP prevents airway closure while it is being used, but apnea episodes return when CPAP is stopped or it is used improperly. While CPAP is the most common form of treatment offered for OSA, only 30% of patients actually comply with CPAP therapy. Below are some of the most common reasons:
  • Disturbing to bed partner
  • Discomfort
  • Claustrophobia
  • Sores, rashes or skin breakdown due to masks and straps
  • Allergy type symptoms, sinus problems
  • Mask or nasal pillows don’t stay in place due to movement during sleep

Surgical Procedures

Surgical procedures may help people with sleep apnea. Surgery is reserved for people who have excessive or malformed tissue that is obstructing airflow through the nose or throat. These procedures are typically performed after sleep apnea has failed to respond to conservative measures and a trial of oral appliance or CPAP. Types of surgery include:

  • Tonsillectomy
  • Adenoidectomy
  • Uvuloplasty
  • Palatoplasty
  • Turbinoplasty or polyp removal
  • Septoplasty
  • Tongue advancement or reduction
  • Upper and Lower Jaw Advancement
  • Tracheostomy

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