Ready to Treat Your Sleep Apnea? You Have Options
If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and was told by a doctor to seek treatment for the condition, there are therapy options out there. Here are a few non-surgical, minimally invasive options.
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machines help many patients with obstructive sleep apnea sleep better at night. Here’s how: When you fall asleep, your muscles relax, and the soft palate at the back of the throat can sag. When this happens, the upper airway can become obstructed, causing the soft palate and uvula to vibrate, causing snoring. When the airway is completely obstructed, breathing stops for a period of time, until the body is jerked awake in reaction. This condition is known as obstructive sleep apnea. OSA can cause interrupted breathing hundreds of times a night, usually around 20 seconds per pause.
This paused breathing causes waking through the night, preventing deep, restorative sleep. This often leads to a host of problems, from daytime sleepiness and reduced job performance to hypertension, heart disease, mood disorders and memory loss.
A CPAP machine helps this condition by pumping a continuous flow of air into the nasal passages, keeping the airway open, and preventing or greatly reducing snoring and paused breathing.
While CPAP therapy has been proven to be very effective in reducing OSA symptoms, many people do not like sleeping with a CPAP mask on. Some feel claustrophobic or claim it causes dry mouth, nasal congestion or skin irritations. Realize there are different machines out there, so it’s important to choose the right machine for you — choose a small, quiet machine with a comfortable mask that fits you well. A humidifier attached to the CPAP machine can reduce throat dryness.
The Pillar Procedure
If CPAP therapy is not for you, there are some non-surgical treatment options. One of the latest is the Pillar Procedure, a safe, non-invasive treatment for mild to moderate OSA symptoms. During the Pillar Procedure, three tiny polyester implants are placed into the soft palate through a small delivery tool without incisions or stitches. Over the following weeks, the implants, together with the body’s natural fibrotic response, stiffens the upper palate and creates structural support. This reduces the tissue vibration that causes snoring and the tissue collapse that causes obstructive sleep apnea. I do the Pillar Procedure at my Eos Sleep office, and it usually takes around 20 minutes.
The Provent Device
Another is a more comfortable alternative to CPAP, called the Provent Device. This FDA-approved treatment involves a small nasal valve that fits into the nostrils and is secured by an adhesive bandage. The valve is powered by your own breathing and creates positive airway pressure much like CPAP, but does not require a machine or mask.
Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure
Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure (BiPAP) is similar to CPAP therapy, but the machine has two air pressure levels, one for breathing in and one for breathing out. The air pressure for breathing out is usually set lower than the incoming air, and you may find it more comfortable to breathe out against a lower air pressure.
Whatever OSA treatment option you choose, you owe it to yourself to seek proper treatment and use your chosen therapy regularly. The benefits are great — snoring and paused breathing will be reduced or eliminated, helping you — and your partner — to sleep and feel better during the day.
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