Snoring and Sleep Apnea

People with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) have disrupted sleep patterns associated with airway obstruction resulting in low blood oxygen levels as well as cardiovascular disease. When obstructive sleep apnea occurs, the airway is obstructed by excess tissues in the throat or tongue. This blocks the upper airway reducing or completely obstructing airflow. When the oxygen level in the brain becomes low enough, the sleeper partially awakens, the obstruction in the throat clears and the flow of air starts again, usually with a loud gasp.

Repeated cycles of decreased oxygenation lead to very serious cardiovascular problems. Additionally, these individuals suffer from excessive daytime sleepiness, depression, and loss of concentration.

Some patients have obstructions that are less severe called Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS). In either case, the individuals suffer many of the same symptoms.

The first step in treatment resides in recognition of the symptoms and seeking appropriate consultation. Oral and maxillofacial surgeons offer consultation and treatment options.

In addition to a detailed history, Dr. Hershkin will assess the anatomic relationships in the maxillofacial region. With cephalometric (skull x-ray) analysis, Dr. Hershkin can ascertain the level of obstruction. Sometimes a naso-pharyngeal exam is done with a flexible fiber-optic camera. To confirm the diagnosis and severity of OSA, a sleep study may be recommended to monitor an individual overnight.

There are several treatment options available. An initial treatment may consist of using a nasal CPAP machine that delivers pressurized oxygen through a nasal mask to limit obstruction at night. Patients that do not tolerate CPAP treatment may be candidates for surgical treatments. Various procedures are available for OSA and are based on each patients clinical exam, x-rays and sleep study results.

OSA is a very serious condition that needs careful attention and treatment. Most major medical plans offer coverage for diagnosis and treatment.