Treatment depends on the severity and cause of the airway obstruction. The sleep study will determine the number of episodes of apnea (breathing pauses) per hour . Usually less than 5 events per hour is considered normal. 5 to 15 events per hour is considered mild, and more than 15 per hour is significant (moderate sleep apnea) with some people having more than 30 episodes an hour (severe sleep apnea).
It is important to determine as best as possible the site of the airway obstruction before proposing a treatment. This requires a thorough examination of the mouth, nose, throat and neck. A nasal endoscopy and nasolaryngoscopy (examinations of the inside of the nose and throat using a very thin fiber) can show the examiner areas of narrowing within the airway. It can also show abnormalities such as enlarged tonsils, enlarged, tongue, or tumors, that are responsible for the obstruction. If any abnormalities are noted, then treatment should take these into account.
Treating the Nose
Any obstruction of the nose whether related to a nasal fracture, a deviation of the septum (the thin wall inside the nose separating right from left sides of the nose), allergies, or other inflammation can cause obstruction and sleep apnea. Especially in children, mild sleep apnea has been shown to be caused by enlarged adenoids, and this obstruction can be relieved by using prescription nasal sprays.
In adults, surgery on the tonsils and throat is performed either in the hospital or in the office for snoring and if the sleep apnea is mild. Other treatments are aimed at keeping the tongue from falling back into the throat when asleep. This can be done by wearing an oral appliance at night, or by performing surgery on the tongue and throat. For severe sleep apnea CPAP may be recommended; (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) this is a machine which is worn at night and relieves OSAS by blowing air into the nose and/or mouth to prevent collapse of the airway.
Weight loss through dieting and an exercise program are also very important and are usually part of most treatment recommendations for sleep apnea.
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