Sleep apnea rarely goes away on its own. A number of treatments are
available. For obstructive sleep apnea, certain devices can help open up
a blocked airway. In other cases, surgery may be necessary.
Treatments for obstructive sleep apnea may include:
positive airway pressure (CPAP).
If you have moderate to severe sleep apnea, you may benefit from a
machine that delivers air pressure through a mask placed over your
nose. With CPAP (SEE-pap), the air pressure is somewhat greater than
that of the surrounding air, and is just enough to keep your upper
airway passages open, preventing apnea and snoring.
Although CPAP is a
preferred method of treating sleep apnea, many people find it
cumbersome and uncomfortable. With some practice, most people learn
to adjust the tension of the straps to obtain a comfortable and
secure fit. You may need to try more than one type of mask to find
one that's comfortable. Some people also benefit from using a
humidifier along with their CPAP system.
Certain dental devices designed to open the throat by bringing the
jaw forward can sometimes relieve snoring and mild obstructive sleep
apnea. A number of devices are available from your dentist. You may
need to try different devices before finding one that works for you.
Surgery or other procedures
The goal of surgery for sleep apnea is to remove excess tissue from your
nose or throat that may be vibrating and causing you to snore, or that
may be blocking your upper air passages and causing sleep apnea.
Surgical options may include:
During this procedure, tissue from the rear of your mouth and top of
your throat is removed. Your tonsils and adenoids usually are
removed as well. This type of surgery may be successful in stopping
throat structures from vibrating and causing snoring. However, it
may be less successful in treating sleep apnea because tissue
farther down your throat may still block your air passage. UPPP
usually is performed in a hospital and requires a general
anesthetic. After the procedure, you may have a very sore throat for
a number of days and be able to eat only soft foods. Full recovery
generally takes about a month. This is the most common type of
surgery to treat snoring and sleep apnea.
Performed in your doctor's office, this procedure involves the use
of a laser to remove part of your soft palate and shorten the
triangular piece of tissue hanging from your soft palate (uvula),
eliminating excess tissue that may obstruct your airway and cause
snoring and sleep apnea.
In this office procedure, your doctor uses radiofrequency energy to
remove tissue from your uvula, soft palate and tongue, which may
help decrease snoring and your risk of sleep apnea. The
radiofrequency energy is delivered to electrodes at the tip of a
surgical device, which heats and destroys some tissue in your mouth
Both LAUP and RFA are less invasive and generally less painful than UPPP.
However, these procedures aren't recommended if you have moderate to
severe obstructive sleep apnea.
This form of surgery may be necessary if other treatments have
failed and you have severe, life-threatening sleep apnea. In this
procedure, your surgeon makes an opening in your neck and inserts a
metal or plastic tube through which you breathe. The opening is kept
covered during the day. But at night it's uncovered to allow air to
pass in and out of your lungs, bypassing the blocked air passage in
Other types of surgery may help reduce snoring and sleep apnea by
clearing or enlarging air passages:
Nasal surgery to
remove polyps or straighten a crooked partition between your
nostrils (deviated nasal septum)
enlarged tonsils or adenoids
Surgery to move
the jaw, facial bones and tongue forward
Treatments for central sleep apnea are more limited and may include:
associated medical problems.
Possible causes of central sleep apnea include heart or
neuromuscular disorders, and treating those conditions may help. For
example, optimizing therapy for heart failure may eliminate central
Using supplemental oxygen while you sleep may help if you have
central sleep apnea. Various forms of oxygen are available as well
as different devices to delivery oxygen to your lungs.
positive airway pressure.
This method, also used in obstructive sleep apnea, involves wearing
a pressurized mask over your nose while you sleep. The mask is
attached to a small pump that forces air through your airway to keep
it from collapsing. CPAP may eliminate snoring and prevent sleep
positive airway pressure (bilevel PAP).
Unlike CPAP, which supplies steady, constant pressure to the upper
airway as you breathe in and out, bilevel PAP builds to a higher
pressure when you inhale and decreases to a lower pressure when you
exhale. The goal of this treatment is to boost the weak breathing
pattern of central sleep apnea. Some bilevel PAP devices can be set
to automatically deliver a breath if the device detects you haven't
taken a breath after so many seconds.
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