Treating  Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Why is it important to treat ?

When you have been diagnosed with OSA you may be tempted to not seek treatment. The masks and dental appliances have to be worn every night and the surgeries are painful and have no guarantee that they will be successful. When deciding about treatment, it is important to remember that there are consequences of not receiving treatment. Untreated OSA increases the risk of:

  • Car accidents
  • heart attacks,
  • strokes,
  • high blood pressure,
  • impotence
  • decreased productivity at work,
  • decreased attentiveness at home, and
  • sudden death.

Treatment options

Weight loss: Sleep apnea can be weight-related. Additional fat around the neck may make the airway narrower, making obstructions more likely to occur. For some overweight people, especially those with mild cases, losing weight can be an effective treatment. Or weight loss may reduce the severity of the sleep apnea.. Losing weight may also improve your health in other ways, but it is always advisable to talk to your doctor before beginning a weight-loss program. Remember that sleep apnea occurs in thin people as well; the airway can close during sleep for a number of reasons, not just excess weight.

Avoiding alcohol and other CNS depressants: Alcohol and medications that act as central nervous system (CNS) depressants-such as pain killers, sedatives, and muscle relaxants-can worsen sleep apnea by relaxing the airway muscles further and/or by reducing the respiratory drive and causing more apneas to occur. Hence avoiding alcohol and CNS depressants close to bedtime may be helpful. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if medications you take prescription or over-the-counter or herbal, affect your sleep apnea.

Oral appliances: Oral appliances, sometimes called dental appliances, the most common devices keep the airway open by pushing the lower jaw forward these are often adjustable so that the dentist can move the jaw further or reduce the advancement as necessary. Oral appliances are typically more effective for people with mild sleep apnea and for non-obese people.

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP): CPAP works by gently blowing room air through the airway at a pressure high enough to keep the throat open. CPAP is the most effective method for treating obstructive sleep apnea. It can sometimes be hard to get used to , but any complaints about the comfort of the machine or mask can usually be addressed easily.

Discuss with your doctor all of your options to find the one best for you.