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ENT Treatments for Sleep Apnea

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Sleep apnea is a serious condition. The breathing of a person with sleep apnea stops and starts while they sleep. Sleep apnea falls into 3 major categories:

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea happens when breathing is obstructed while you sleep. This can be caused by obstruction in the airways such as the nose and throat.
  • Central Sleep Apnea happens when the brain doesn’t send the proper signals necessary to keep you breathing while you sleep.
  • Complex Sleep Apnea occurs when you have both forms of sleep apnea.

ENTs treat obstructive sleep apnea.

How ENTs treat sleep apnea

ENTs treat obstructive sleep apnea by treating the obstruction. They can do this with the use of devices worn while you sleep or surgery to permanently remove the tissues causing the obstruction. Devices are designed to control the apnea but are not a permanent cure. Surgeries are performed to permanently correct the obstruction and stop the apnea.

Devices prescribed by ENTs

The ENT may prescribe the use of an appliance that applies continuous pressure to the air passages (CPAP) to keep them open while you sleep or they can prescribe an oral device to reposition the lower jaw to keep the throat open while you sleep.

  • CPAP Masks.  Continuous positive airway pressure devices are worn over the mouth or nose or some masks are worn over both the mouth and nose. CPAP machines provide a continuous supply of pressure to keep the airway open during the inhale and exhale process. These machines do not breathe for you.  What they do is keep the airway open by applying pressure.  CPAP machines must be carefully calibrated to the individual user and the mask must be properly fitted. Some people that use a CPAP device complain of dry throat, but many newer models incorporate an on-board humidifier.
  • CPAP devices must be worn every night. They are one of the most effective devices for controlling obstructive sleep apnea. The ability of CPAP treatment to work is 100% dependent on patient compliance. That means CPAP only works if it is used.
  • Oral Devices.  Oral appliances for obstructive sleep apnea look similar to retainers worn after braces are removed. They keep the soft tissue in the airway from collapsing when you are sleeping. Oral devices are an alternative when the patient cannot tolerate or will not use CPAP. Oral devices can be used alone or in conjunction with CPAP. These devices work by repositioning the lower jaw or pulling the tongue forward. Dry mouth, tooth and jaw discomfort are a few of the side effects of the use of oral devices. However, if surgery is out of the question they are an effective way to control sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea surgery performed by ENTs

ENTs can perform a variety of surgeries to correct obstructive sleep apnea permanently. These procedures target the tissues that obstruct breathing while you sleep. Sleep apnea surgeries remove obstructive tissues to restore free breathing while you sleep. As a bonus, you may find that you breathe better during the day as well.

  • Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty.  This sleep apnea surgery may have a long name, but the positive effects are long-lasting as well. During the procedure the ENT will remove tissues from the throat, uvula, tonsils, adenoids or the soft palate.
  • Thermal Ablation.  During this procedure tissue is removed by burning the tissue away. Laser, radiofrequency and bipolar cauterization are the methods used. Turbinates, polyps, uvula tissue and the soft palate can all be treated with some form of thermal ablation. Recovery is much less painful and is much faster than with traditional surgery.
  • Implants.  Pillar implants can be inserted in a surgical procedure that is performed under local anesthesia. These structures stiffen the soft palate and keep it from collapsing or blocking the airways while you sleep.

See ENT for sleep apnea treatment

If you or someone you love has trouble sleeping at night; if they awake feeling tired or snore loudly obstructive sleep apnea could be the culprit. Schedule an appointment with the ENT today.