Sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts.
There are several types of sleep apnea:
- obstructive sleep apnea, the more common form that occurs when throat muscles relax
- central sleep apnea, which occurs when your brain doesn't send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing
- complex sleep apnea - a combination of obstructive and central sleep apneas
What are Symptoms of Sleep Apnea?
Sleep Apnea is characterized by pauses in your breathing that can last from a few seconds to minutes. They often occur 5 to 30 times or more an hour. Typically, normal breathing then starts again, sometimes with a loud snort or choking sound. Because sleep apnea occurs while you sleep, it is often difficult to diagnose.
Common signs and symptoms that may indicate sleep apnea include:
- Excessive daytime sleepiness (hypersomnia)
- Loud snoring, which is usually more prominent in obstructive sleep apnea
- Observed episodes of breathing cessation during sleep
- Abrupt awakenings accompanied by shortness of breath, which more likely indicates central sleep apnea
- Awakening with a dry mouth or sore throat
- Morning headache
- Difficulty staying asleep (insomnia)
How is Sleep Apnea Diagnosed?
Your doctor may make an evaluation based on your signs and symptoms or may refer you to a sleep disorder center. There, a sleep specialist can help you decide on your need for further evaluation. Such an evaluation often involves overnight monitoring of your breathing and other body functions during sleep.
What Kinds of Treatment Are Offered for Sleep Apnea?
For milder cases of sleep apnea, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes such as losing weight or quitting smoking. If these measures arenít successful, surgery may be necessary. The surgeon at Palmetto Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery is uniquely qualified to provide surgical treatment that has an 85% chance of resolving or improving even the worst symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea. We will perform an exam, review your sleep study (if you already have one), and discuss your options thoroughly with you. Additional studies, xrays, and models may be necessary to further evaluate your problem and then plan your treatment.