People with obstructive sleep apnea experience regular breathing disruptions or shallow breathing while they sleep, which causes low blood oxygen levels. When sleep apnea occurs, there is a blockage in the airway and airflow stops. When the oxygen level becomes low enough, the brain alerts the sleeper to awaken partially so that the obstruction in the throat clears and the flow of air begins. Patients with sleep apnea often cannot tell they have it because the symptoms occur while they sleep. If you or a loved one snore or experience times during sleep when snoring or deep breathing gets quiet, and then gasp or suddenly move, these are the most common signs of sleep apnea.
Repeated cycles of decreased oxygenation can result in very serious heart problems, excessive daytime sleepiness, loss of concentration, memory problems, and depression. Some patients have obstructions that are less severe and are classified as Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS). In either case, the individuals suffer many of the same symptoms. Even if a patient with sleep apnea doesn’t experience these symptoms, their condition can cause a heart attack or stroke at an early age.
If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, there are several treatment options available. Initial treatment may consist of utilizing a CPAP machine that delivers pressurized oxygen through a nasal mask to offer additional oxygen and limit obstruction at night. If that does not help, however, there are surgical options available.
The most predictable treatment for patients is often jaw surgery. Patients who do not like their CPAP machine or who still have sleep apnea even though they use a mouth splint can often be treated with jaw surgery, also called orthognathic surgery. This surgery repositions the bones of the upper and lower jaw to increase the airway. This procedure is done in the hospital under general anesthesia and requires a one- to two-day overnight stay in the hospital. Patients are often nervous before this type of procedure, but after surgery, patients say their life is so much better. They cannot imagine going back to how they were before their treatment.
You may benefit from the surgical treatment of sleep apnea if any of the following apply to you:
- You experience discomfort or pain utilizing mouthpieces.
- You do not experience success or feel comfortable using breathing devices, such as the CPAP machine.
- Your sleep apnea cannot be corrected with lifestyle changes such as weight loss, alcohol avoidance, smoking cessation, or side sleeping.
In addition to reviewing your medical history, Dr. Anderson will assess the anatomic relationships in the maxillofacial region. With a skull X-ray analysis, he can determine the level of obstruction the patient is experiencing. To confirm the amount of cardiovascular compromise and decreased oxygenation levels, a sleep study may be recommended.
While sleep apnea is relatively common, it is still a very serious condition that needs careful attention and treatment. Most major medical insurance plans offer coverage for diagnosis and treatment. Dr. Anderson is available to assess you and guide you through treatment. If you would like to learn more about sleep apnea, please call our Granger, IN, office today.