Can Sleep Apnea be Cured?
Treatment for Obstructive Sleep Apnea
For treatment of obstructive sleep apnea experts continue to encourage lifestyle changes - most importantly, weight loss.
Obstructive sleep apnea is a serious disorder causing a person’s airway to become blocked while sleeping. This blockage interrupts breathing often dozens of times in one night. Obstructive sleep apnea can put a person at risk for other serious conditions, as well, including stroke and hypertension.
Weight Loss as Treatment
Excess weight is well known to be linked to sleep apnea. People who have extra weight are also likely to have extra tissue towards the back of the throat, which can impede the airway, blocking air flow into the lungs during sleep. Though weight loss can be very challenging for people with excess weight, very effective results can be achieved just by losing weight. Overweight people (as well as those considered obese) have a much higher risk of developing sleep apnea and other heart issues such as heart disease. A 10% loss in body weight can greatly decrease symptoms of sleep apnea. In certain cases, significant weight loss is even able to cure the condition.
Other Treatment Options
Another treatment option for obstructive sleep apnea strongly recommended by the ACP is what’s called “continuous positive airway pressure” (also known as CPAP). Often this is the first treatment for individuals with sleep apnea, since losing weight is often a challenge and can take a significant amount of time. CPAP is a device (or mask) that fits over the mouth and nose, while allows for air to be blow into the airways, keeping them open at night while a person is sleeping. CPAP has proven effective in general, but some people that need it are unwilling to wear the apparatus because of discomfort with the device itself. Research has shown that at least 50% of people who try using CPAP do not continue consistent use. Advances in CPAP construction and technology are luckily making it considerable more tolerable. Originally it was a one-size-fits-all apparatus, but there have been a lot of recent advancements in mask styles and fits.
An alternative to CPAP is a device called an oral appliance. This “oral appliance” is actually a plastic insert that is fitted into the mouth and can aid in the prevention of the tongue (and the tissues that are in the back of the throat) collapsing into the airway while a person sleeps. Oral appliances and CPAP can work well, but they are not considered cures. Weight loss or surgery for removal of excess tissues from the throat or palate are the only actual cures for sleep apnea. Surgery is considered a last resort since it can have some side effects. However, if a person is unable to tolerate oral appliances or CPAP, and is unable to achieve significant weight loss, surgery is a treatment option.
Best Treatment Plans
Before deciding on the best treatment plan, sleep apnea must be properly diagnosed. Because interruptions in breathing happen during sleep, it can be very hard for people to understand what is actually causing issues. People often don’t have any idea they have sleep apnea.
Excessive nighttime snoring and daytime drowsiness can be helpful clues. Sleep studies can check a person’s breathing while they sleep in a sleep laboratory and/or try a monitoring device that can be attached during sleep at home. Sleep studies can be very effective for determining the best treatment for sleep apnea. Treatment for sleep apnea needs to be specific to each individual.