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Obstructive Sleep Apnea

What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome (OSAS) is the most common cause of excessive daytime sleepiness. Primarily affecting middle-aged, obese males, it is characterized by repetitive episodes of obstructed breathing during sleep. Typically, the muscles that support the soft tissues in the back of the throat (the soft palate, uvula, tonsils and tongue) relax and collapse, momentarily cutting off respiration. The flow of air to the lungs can also be reduced by excess tissue in the upper airway, large tonsils or tongue and chronic nasal obstruction.

If you suffer from this type of sleep apnea, brief episodes of obstructed breathing can occur hundreds of times each night, lasting 20 seconds or longer. During one of these episodes, you breathe and snore while your muscles gradually relax until airflow is completely or almost completely obstructed. Your brain senses a decrease in oxygen and briefly rouses you from sleep. Your muscles "awake" and reopen the airway, usually with a gasp or snort. Afterward, you quickly fall asleep again, and the pattern is repeated. During each of these breathless periods, the level of oxygen in the blood falls to dangerously low levels, raising blood pressure and putting a strain on the cardiovascular system.

These repeated awakenings prevent restful and refreshing sleep. As a result, one of the key symptoms of sleep apnea is excessive daytime sleepiness which can result in lower on-the-job productivity and greater tendency to have accidents. For example, studies have shown that people with sleep apnea are three to five times more likely to have automobile accidents than the general population.

What are the Symptons?

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Loud snoring punctuated by a breathing pause that resumes with a snorting, gasping sound
  • Morning headaches
  • Unrefreshing sleep
  • A dry mouth upon awakening
  • High Blood pressure
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Excessive perspiring during sleep
  • Reduced libido

How Serious is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

Obstructive Sleep Apnea requires prompt medical attention

If you think you may be suffering from Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome, you should discuss your symptoms with a physician immediately. ObstructiveSleep Apnea Syndrome is a progressive, potentially life-threatening condition.

The risks associated with Obstructive Sleep Apnea include:

  • Heart Attack
  • Stroke
  • Impotence
  • Irregular Heartbeat
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Heart Disease

How is Obstructive Sleep Apnea Diagnosed?

Obstructive Sleep Apnea can be difficult to diagnose and is often misdiagnosed.

Loud snoring interrupted by brief episodes when breathing stops and excessive daytime sleepiness are the key symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome. Snoring should always be carefully evaluated and not dismissed as simply a nuisance.

When sleep apnea is suspected, a Polysomnograph can confirm the diagnosis. Conducted during sleep, this test monitors heart, lung and brain activity, breathing patterns, arm and leg movements and blood oxygen levels.

The Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT) is also often recommended. The MSLT measures the speed of falling asleep. In this test, patients are given several opportunities to fall asleep when they would normally be awake, and the time it takes to fall asleep is measured. People without sleep problems usually take an average of 10 to 20 minutes to fall asleep. Individuals who fall asleep in less than 5 minutes are likely to require some type of treatment for disordered sleep. Diagnostic tests usually are performed in a sleep center, but new technology may allow some sleep studies to be conducted in the patient's home.

Somnoplasty: New Advances in the
Treatnent of Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Until now, patients with obstructive sleep apnea faced a limited, and unpleasant, choice of treatments. Somnoplasty™ is a minimally invasive, outpatient procedure which reduces and tightens excess tissue in the upper airway responsible for obstructive sleep apnea, including the base of tongue, the most difficult to treat source of obstruction. The procedure takes place under local anesthesia in an outpatient setting with the patient typically resuming normal activities the following day.

The specially-designed Somnoplasty™ handpiece creates limited zones of coagulation beneath the surface of the tissue. The surface tissue is shielded from thermal damage and is thereby preserved. Over a period of three to eight weeks the treated tissue is resorbed, leading to volume reduction of the airway obstruction. The procedure itself typically takes 30 to 45 minutes, with only 5 to 10 minutes of actual RF energy delivery. Typically more than one treatment is necessary to achieve optimal results.

Sleep studies have demonstrated that Somnoplasty can effectively treat OSA by reducing excess tissue volume.

Further Information

For a description of the procedure visit Somnoplasty


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