Sleep apnea has serious consequences; therefore, treatment is imperative.
What treatments are available?
Treatment depends on the diagnosis and level(s) of upper airway narrowing. In many cases, more than one area may be involved.
Snoring or Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) may respond to various treatments:
- Obstructive sleep apnea is most often treated with a device that opens the airway with a small amount of positive pressure. This pressure is delivered via a nasal mask worn during sleep. This treatment is called continuous positive airway pressure, or ‘CPAP’; it is currently the initial treatment of choice for patients with OSA.
- Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) is surgery for treating snoring and obstructive sleep apnea. It removes excess soft palate tissue and opens the airway. In addition, the remaining tissue stiffens as it heals, thereby minimizing tissue vibration. The size of the air passage may be further enlarged when a tonsillectomy is added to the procedure. See: Post-op Traditional T&A instructions
- Thermal ablation procedures reduce tissue bulk in the nasal turbinates, tongue base, and/or soft palate. These procedures are used for both snoring and OSA. Different methods of thermal ablation include bipolar cautery, laser, and radiofrequency. These procedures may be done in the operating room or during an office visit. Several treatments may be required. See info on Turbinate Reduction and Soft Palate Reduction
- Methods to increase the stiffness of the soft palate without removing tissue include injecting an irritating substance that causes stiffness in the injected area near the uvula. Another method is inserting stiffening rods (Pillar implants) into the soft palate.
- Genioglossus and hyoid advancement is a surgical procedure for the treatment of sleep apnea. It prevents collapse of the lower throat and pulls the tongue muscles forward, thereby opening the obstructed airway.
- A custom-fit oral appliance, which repositions the lower jaw forward, may also be considered for certain patients with snoring/OSA. This should be fitted by an otolaryngologist, dentist, or oral surgeon with expertise in sleep dentistry.
- In some patients, significant weight loss can also improve snoring and OSA.
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