Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Sleep is one of the most important yet often overlooked areas of our health and well-being. In our fast-paced, 24-hour world, sleep is very often last on our list of priorities. Sleep disorders are extremely prevalent in our society. Sleep medicine research clearly shows dangers and health consequences of inadequate or poor sleep. A large number of patients experience sleep problems related to obstruction of their airway while they are sleeping. This leads to what is known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)?

OSA is a disease of intermittent airflow blockage in the upper airway while asleep. This causes multiple periods of sleep disruption throughout the night leading to chronic, daily symptoms of fatigue, sleepiness, memory loss, and overall decreased quality of life. During these obstructive events, the brain is often deprived of oxygen. This oxygen deprivation is associated with even more severe health consequences and has been shown to increase one’s risk of heart attacks, hypertension, stroke, and also cause shorter life expectancy. The snoring that often accompanies OSA has also been shown, even by itself, to have negative health consequences for patients…and certainly to anyone within earshot of them!

Testing

If you snore or suspect that you might have OSA, your doctor will perform a thorough physical examination of the airway and may also order a sleep study. A sleep study is an overnight test which is done in a “sleep lab,” or sometimes in your own bed at home. The sleep study monitors nasal airflow, breathing, and oxygen levels. It helps to confirm the OSA diagnosis and also gives your doctor a better idea of what treatment options to offer you.

Treatment

Your doctor will discuss a variety of treatments available to you. There are both non-surgical and surgical treatments for OSA and snoring. The most basic treatments include lifestyle adjustments such as sleep position and weight loss. Adjusting medications and reducing alcohol consumption can sometimes improve sleep apnea as well. Devices can also aid in breathing. Positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy is a common OSA treatment. PAP therapy works by providing a cushion of air in the throat to prevent obstructions from occurring. Dental devices, sometimes referred to as an oral appliance or “mouthguard,” can also be used successfully to treat patients with OSA. Finally, your doctor may discuss a variety of surgical options to alleviate your airway obstruction.

The experienced physicians at Greenville ENT can skillfully diagnose OSA and develop a treatment strategy specific for you. Together, we will improve your sleep to enrich your rest and well-being.

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