There is no “single” procedure for sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) refers to anatomic narrowing of the upper airway anywhere from the nose, back of the throat, or lower throat. This narrowing can be a static problem such as a severely deviated nasal septum or very large tonsils or can be a dynamic issue with loss of throat tissues that collapse when you breathe.
Why even treat sleep apnea? First, to improve symptoms of snoring, improve quality of sleep, and decrease daytime tiredness making you more productive in the daytime. Second, untreated obstructive sleep apnea can increase the risk of developing heart problems, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and stroke.
Since the causes for sleep apnea are unique to each person, the best treatment option is a personalized approach. The optimal workup includes a thorough history, exam including a full fiberoptic exam of the nose and throat, and an overnight sleep study. The sleep study tells us many important factors – the number of times you stop breathing, the level of oxygen on the bloodstream, the percentage of stages of sleep, snoring loudness, and presence of irregular heart beats.
Non Surgical Options
There are non-surgical options. Weight loss, maintaining a normal sleep cycle, and avoiding alcohol at night are just a few examples of lifestyle changes that can help. The gold standard treatment is nasal CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) which is a mask one wears over the nose, nose and mouth, or in the nostrils that forces air through the nose/mouth to prevent the collapse of the airway. An oral appliance in some patients is another non-surgical alternative to open the airway by pulling the jaw slightly forward.
Surgical options can include nasal and/or throat surgery. Of course every option whether surgical or non-surgical has its advantages and disadvantages. Dr. Liu can will discuss all options and together with the patient try to make the best decision.