Obstructive Sleep Apnea, the most common form of sleep apnea, results from partial to total obstruction of the upper airways during the night with complete cessation of breathing for 20 or more seconds. This often causes snoring as the soft palette vibrates while the sleeper tries to force air through the narrowed passage.
Recurrent sleep apnea patients often complain of inadequate rest and may experience fatigue from low blood oxygen, high blood pressure, and damage leading to serious heart disease. Additional complications can include damage to the hippocampus and frontal cortex of the brain, reducing the ability to process nonverbal information.
Non-surgical treatment includes the use of a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine or a mouth guard-like device, known as a mandibular advancement splint, which can reposition the soft tissue of the mouth and treat mild cases of apnea. Surgical treatment, however, is recommended for severe cases or for patients unable to properly use a CPAP machine due to other medical conditions. Two common surgical solutions include the pillar procedure for mild cases, which involves inserting small supports into the soft palate, and an uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) for extreme cases, which requires the removal of the uvula and tonsils.
About the Author:
Dr. Frank Brettschneider is a triple board-certified Otolaryngologist and graduated in the top 5 percent of his class at Michigan State University.