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Mid Coast Center for Community Health & Wellness Newsletter
June 2018
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Obstructive Sleep Apnea: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Have you ever been told that you snore loudly or stop breathing while you sleep? Or, have you noticed that you have headaches in the morning or excessive sleepiness during the day? These may be symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).

Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that results in episodes of stopped breathing which interrupt deep sleep. This condition affects nearly 20 million people in our country, impacting men almost two times more frequently than women.

Although very common, this condition often goes undetected. Left untreated, OSA can lead to other medical conditions.

Symptoms

There are varying degrees of sleep apnea ranging from mild to severe. It is caused by partial or complete blockage of the airway. This can occur during sleep when the throat muscles relax, allowing fatty tissue of the throat or the tongue to block the airway. The brain is then signaled to wake up to breathe. This cycle can occur many times during the night and is considered severe when a person has 30 or more interruptions.

Take Action

If you think that you may have sleep apnea, talk to your doctor. Together you will determine if more testing is needed to confirm a diagnosis.

Another important step is losing weight. Though you hear it frequently, being overweight can lead to many medical conditions. Losing weight and increasing your physical activity are some of the most important things you can do for your health, including decreasing your risk for OSA.

Treatment Options

If you have been diagnosed with OSA, it is very important that you follow the plan recommended by your provider. As noted above, untreated OSA can lead to many other medical conditions. Treatment options generally fall into three categories: positive airway pressure therapy, oral appliances, or surgery.

Positive Airway Pressure (PAP) Therapy

  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)
  • Automatic Positive Airway Pressure (APAP)
  • Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure (BiPAP)

Oral Appliances

  • Mandibular Advancement Devices (MADs)
  • Tongue-retaining mouthpieces

Surgery

  • Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP)
  • Adenotonsillectomy
  • Nasal surgery
  • Maxillomandibular Advancement (MMA)

If you would like to learn more about ways to reduce your risk of OSA, or if you are interested in other programs to help you live a healthier lifestyle, please call (207) 373-6585 or stop by our free Prescription for Health orientation program, starting July 13!

Causes & Risk Factors
There are a number of known causes and risk factors for OSA:
  • Overweight/Obesity: A person’s weight can be directly linked to OSA. People who maintain a healthy weight are less likely to develop sleep apnea. Because fatty tissue can obstruct the airway, the greater the excess fatty tissue in the neck and throat the greater an individual’s risk.
  • Age: Muscle tone decreases with age. In the case of the throat muscles, when they become weaker with age they are more likely to collapse into the airway during sleep.
  • Enlarged Tonsils or Adenoids: Though enlarged tonsils or adenoids are the leading cause of obstructive sleep apnea in children, they can also affect adults who never had a tonsillectomy when they were younger.
  • Frequent Alcohol Use: Alcohol relaxes muscles. This includes the throat muscles, which may relax to the point of blocking the airway during sleep.
  • Smoking: Smoke is an irritant to the lungs, throat, and esophagus. It can cause inflammation and fluid retention in the upper airways that can impact airflow.
  • Family History: Some people are genetically predisposed to having a narrower throat or may have an enlarged tongue that falls back into their airway. If your family has a history of OSA, you are more likely to have it yourself.
Causes & Risk Factors
There are a number of known causes and risk factors for OSA:
  • Overweight/Obesity: A person’s weight can be directly linked to OSA. People who maintain a healthy weight are less likely to develop sleep apnea. Because fatty tissue can obstruct the airway, the greater the excess fatty tissue in the neck and throat the greater an individual’s risk.
  • Age: Muscle tone decreases with age. In the case of the throat muscles, when they become weaker with age they are more likely to collapse into the airway during sleep.
  • Enlarged Tonsils or Adenoids: Though enlarged tonsils or adenoids are the leading cause of obstructive sleep apnea in children, they can also affect adults who never had a tonsillectomy when they were younger.
  • Frequent Alcohol Use: Alcohol relaxes muscles. This includes the throat muscles, which may relax to the point of blocking the airway during sleep.
  • Smoking: Smoke is an irritant to the lungs, throat, and esophagus. It can cause inflammation and fluid retention in the upper airways that can impact airflow.
  • Family History: Some people are genetically predisposed to having a narrower throat or may have an enlarged tongue that falls back into their airway. If your family has a history of OSA, you are more likely to have it yourself.
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