People with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) have disrupted sleep and low blood oxygen levels. When obstructive sleep apnea occurs, the tongue is sucked against the back of the throat. This blocks the upper airway and airflow stops. When the oxygen level in the brain becomes low enough, the sleeper partially awakens, the obstruction in the throat clears, and the flow of air starts again, usually with a loud gasp.
Repeated cycles of decreased oxygenation lead to very serious cardiovascular problems. Additionally, these individuals suffer from excessive daytime sleepiness, depression, and loss of concentration.
Some patients have obstructions that are less severe called Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS). In either case, the individuals suffer many of the same symptoms.
The first step in treatment resides in recognition of the symptoms and seeking appropriate consultation. We work closely with an independent sleep lab in Georgetown, KY, as well as ENT specialists in Richmond and surrounding communities for consultations and treatment options.
In addition to a detailed history, the doctors will assess the anatomic relationships in the maxillofacial region. With cephalometric (skull x-ray) analysis, the doctors can ascertain the level of obstruction. Sometimes a naso-pharyngeal exam is done with a flexible fiber-optic camera. To confirm the amount of cardiovascular compromise and decreased oxygenation levels, a sleep study may be recommended to monitor an individual overnight.
There are several treatment options available. An initial treatment may consist of using a jaw re-positioning device that keeps the lower jaw forward and thus keeping the airway open. If the diagnosis is more significant, alternate initial treatment could be a nasal CPAP machine that delivers pressurized oxygen through a nasal mask to limit obstruction at night. There are also several surgical options that can be discussed with your ENT, physician, or oral surgeon to determine if they would help.
OSA is a very serious condition that needs careful attention and treatment. Most major medical plans offer coverage for diagnosis and treatment.
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