In our previous post Sleep Apnea: What is it and how is it diagnosed, we discussed the causes of Sleep Apnea, and touched on how we can test and diagnose patient with sleep apnea. Now let’s examine the 4 different sleep apnea treatments available today.
4 Treatments for Sleep Apnea
The following treatments are available through most sleep centers or other local resources. It’s important to keep in mind that not all treatments will work for every patient, and these options may require a sleep test in order to find the best option for you.
Sleep Apnea Treatment #1 – Positional Therapy
The first treatment we discuss is positional therapy. For patients who only have sleep apnea when they sleep on their back, forcing them to their side may be an effective treatment. The downside is that by sleeping on the side, the patient may develop joint pain — specifically hip and shoulder pain.
Sleep Apnea Treatment #2 – Oral Appliances
The second treatment is an adjustable oral appliance, also referred to as Mandibular Advancement Device or Vestibular Shield. This is a mouth piece made by the dentist or orthodontist. It essentially pulls the bottom jaw forward and pulls the tongue away from the base of the airway. This works well for patients who have snoring without apnea or mild apnea without any significant health issues.
The biggest drawback to oral appliances is that it can worsen Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) issues, or issues of the jaw bone. The patient must also have good dental hygiene in order for the device to be an option.
Sleep Apnea Treatment #3 – Surgery
The third option is surgery. Surgery is generally not a very good option as the best surgeries for sleep apnea carry about a 25-30% success rate. These are extensive surgeries that require recovery time from work and significant pain and expenses.
Sleep Apnea Treatment #4 – CPAP Machine
The final option to treat sleep apnea is by far the most common. Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine is a mask or other device that blows positive pressure in to the upper airway to splint the airway open. This treatment is 99.5% effective in treating apnea, and the key to success with a CPAP machine is consistent nightly use.
Many patients are very hesitant to wear PAP. Why is that? Because many have heard horror stories about the machines. Twenty+ years ago when CPAP machines were first introduced, the equipment was terrible.
The machines sounded like jet engines and the masks were big and uncomfortable. Today’s equipment is much more user friendly. Machines are small and whisper quiet, and the masks are far more comfortable than before with improved features.
We also know that CPAP machines can improve many heart related health concerns, including; reducing blood pressure, helping treat diabetes, and aiding in preventing heart disease.
If we had a pill that does those things, we would all take it. In fact, CPAP therapy will do all of those things. This is why CPAP IS the gold standard in treatment of moderate to severe sleep apnea.
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