Suffering from sleep apnea? You’re not alone – around 22 million Americans are suffering from this condition. And around 80% of those with moderate to severe sleep apnea remain undiagnosed.
Fortunately, you don’t have to worry much if you have this condition. You can control or cure sleep apnea with several treatment options.
Not all can be the right one for you, though. You may have to try out different treatment plans to see which suits you.
To know which sleep apnea treatment option is right for you, learn your options first.
CPAP, which stands for continuous positive airway pressure, is a machine you put over your mouth while you sleep. It’s the most common sleep apnea treatment option.
The CPAP machine keeps your airway open by sending a constant flow of air pressure to your throat. It treats obstructive sleep apnea in this way, which occurs when the throat muscles relax.
Relaxed muscles cause the narrowing or closure of your airway. The air pressure from the CPAP machine prevents this, hence eliminating this issue.
While it’s the most reliable form of treating sleep apnea, note that it’s not a cure. You need to always wear it to sleep for it to work, which is one of its downsides.
Some people find it uncomfortable to wear a mask during sleep. Over time, though, you can adjust it to fit you better so it’s more comfortable. Learn more about it over at CPAP My Way.
BPAP stands for bilevel positive airway pressure, which works the same as a CPAP device. A BPAP machine delivers air pressure via a mask. This also prevents the airways from collapsing.
What makes it different from CPAP is that it’s not limited to a single pressure. It doesn’t remain consistent throughout the night.
It solves one of the most common patient complaints about CPAP devices. Some users find it hard to exhale against the singular pressure. If the pressure is high, the patients have to force their breath out at some times.
BPAP machines, on the other hand, have dual pressure settings. The pressure prescribed for inhalation and exhalation can be different. It can also increase the pressure, forcing a breath, if the patient has not breathed for a while.
As such, it’s better for patients with high air pressure settings. It’s also worth a try for those who haven’t benefited from a CPAP machine.
3. Oral Appliances
If you don’t like the idea of masks, you can ask your doctor if you can use oral appliances instead. These are devices you put into your mouth, making them easier to use.
Oral appliances for sleep apnea have two major categories. One is the Mandibular Advancement Device (MAD), which looks like a mouthguard.
You insert it into your mouth, over the upper and lower dental arches. What it does is that it eases the jaw forward, opening up the airway.
The other category is Tongue Retaining Mouthpiece. It can look similar to a MAD, but it has a section where the tongue fits. Using suction, it holds the tongue forward to prevent it from collapsing and blocking the airway.
These oral appliances are more recommended if you only have mild apnea. For worse cases, your doctor may prescribe you any of the above or one of the permanent solutions below.
4. Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP)
UPPP is the standard procedure for treating sleep apnea. It involves the removal or remodeling of soft tissue from your throat.
Depending on your case, the surgeon might remove tissue from the soft palate and uvula. The procedure may also involve removing your tonsils and adenoids.
The surgeon might also reposition excess tissue in the throat or some of the muscles in the soft palate.
These procedures aim to widen the airway to prevent it from obstructing your breathing. However, it may not be enough for moderate to severe cases of sleep apnea.
5. Maxillomandibular Advancement (MMA)
In this procedure, a surgeon repositions the jaw, moving it forward to relieve airway obstruction. It repositions the bones in both the upper and lower jaw. It also involves the attached pharyngeal airway muscles, suspending them in an anterior position and increasing tension in the pharyngeal soft tissue.
MMA is effective for severe sleep apnea because it affects all airway levels. Its effects go all the way from the nasal cavity to the hypopharynx.
It has a success rate of 89%, but note that it changes your facial structure. Because it repositions your jaw, there will be changes to how you look.
6. Other Surgical Procedures
Your doctor may also suggest other procedures to treat sleep apnea. You have other options like Radiofrequency ablation treatment for shrinking tissue in and around the throat.
If your nasal cavity is the issue, you may have to get a septoplasty. It straightens a deviated or bent nasal septum, improving the flow of air.
A surgery called Hyoid Suspension pulls the hyoid bone attached to the tongue and other structures in the throat. Pulling it forward and holding it in place will enlarge the breathing space in that area.
Some other surgical procedures are implants, nerve stimulation, tracheostomy, and more. Ask your doctor which is right for you.
7. Lifestyle Changes
Sometimes, a huge change in lifestyle can improve your sleep apnea and ease its symptoms.
Loss of fat, for instance, can help relieve constriction around your throat. This is one explanation why some patients may find that their sleep apnea has resolved when they get to a healthy weight. However, it may come back when you also gain the weight back.
That said, lots of exercising can get you there. But even 30 minutes of moderate activity can help ease the symptoms of sleep apnea.
You should also avoid alcohol, sleeping pills, and other certain medications. These substances relax the muscles in your throat.
If you can, sleep on your side instead of on your back. This prevents the tongue and the soft palate from resting into the back of your throat, creating an obstruction.
Ask Your Doctor Which Sleep Apnea Treatment Option is For You
The right sleep apnea treatment depends on every patient. A huge factor is the cause of the obstruction; the severity of this condition matters, as well. However, no one can say for sure something will work until you – the patient – has tried it.
Don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor about your concerns. If you need more help, you can also read our other blog posts.