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. Patients with OSA have an increased risk for stroke, heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, dementia, and chronic fatigue.
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 and should seek professional care.
The first step in treatment resides in recognition of the symptoms and seeking appropriate consultation. Ear Nose and Throat as well as Sleep Physicians offer consultation and treatment options.
In addition to a detailed history, the doctors may 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 or without a flexible fiber-optic camera. To confirm the amount of cardiovascular compromise and decreased oxygenation levels, a sleep study is typically recommended to monitor an individual overnight.
Once a diagnosis is reached by your Physician, multiple treatment options may be available to you for the treatment of OSA. Growing in popularity due to its efficacy and non-invasive nature is oral appliance therapy for the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea. These devices open the airway by gently advancing the lower jaw. This medical device can be made by your Dentist who then partners with your Physician to assist in the treatment of your OSA.
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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