What's the Treatment for Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

5 answers | Last updated: Nov 06, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

What's the treatment for obstructive sleep apnea?

Expert Answers

Craig Schwimmer, MD, MPH, is a board-certified otolaryngologist, a head and neck surgeon who focuses on snoring and sleep apnea. He is the medical director of the Snoring Center, a leading provider of minimally invasive treatment for sleep-disordered breathing, located in Dallas.

If you've been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, it's likely your doctor will first suggest fitting you with a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) device, a specially designed nasal mask that blows air directly into your airways. Studies have shown CPAP masks to be extremely effective in treating sleep apnea -- but many people, understandably, don't like wearing them. In fact, studies show that after a year, only about half the patients are still using them regularly.

Still, a CPAP is worth a try because if it works, it works very well, and you'll immediately benefit from deep, restful sleep. However, if this doesn't prove to be the case for you, or you don't like wearing it, you should consider other treatment options. These include surgery; oral appliances; and newer, minimally invasive treatment.

The good news is that the spectrum of available treatments has broadened enormously in the past few years, so there are many options we can offer patients. In the past few years a number of minimally invasive surgical techniques have been developed that can be done in the doctor's office. These include the Pillar procedure, which involves using permanent stitches to firm up the soft palate; Coblation, which uses radiofrequency to shrink nasal tissues; and even use of a carbon dioxide laser to shrink the tonsils. None of these requires anesthesia, and all allow you to be in and out and back to work the same day.

In my opinion, the most important thing is that all patients with sleep apnea find treatment options that make sense for them, that they can actually use and benefit from.

Community Answers

Circus answered...

Does anyone know anything about the success rate with an oral appliance?

Packard8 answered...

I want to send out support for those people using a CPAP/VPAP, it took me a full year and a half to get used to it. Now I really need it to sleep, it has been a lifesaver, I wake up earlier and more rested and don't get sleepy during the day. But only because I stuck with it did it work. Now on the other hand, I my dad got one from the VA and slept all night with it the first night and every single night since then. He is the poster child for the CPAP.

Ginapera answered...

In my experience and based on reading the literature, sometimes "obstructive sleep apnea" is more of a neurochemical issue than an anatomical one. To put it simply, the brain must send signals to the throat to open during sleep. When that signaling doesn't take place, sleep apnea can be the symptom.

Some people with ADHD who also suffer from sleep apnea have experienced relief from CPAP machines, but most seem to forget to use them or don't like the hassle. Fortunately for some of these people, the medications use to treat ADHD affect the dopamine pathways, which are thought to be involved with some aspects of sleep apnea.

Rustyone answered...

Just have to put my 2 cents in, have been on CPAP for over 8 years. For those of you who need to use CPAP but could not get used to a face (nose and/or Mouth) mask, the newer "nasal pillow" masks are great and use a much smaller hose. They are much easier to wear, check them out, you won't be sorry.