With more than 20 million American diagnosed with sleep apnea, and even more who remain undiagnosed, this sleep breathing disorder is a cause for much concern. Contributing to many serious health conditions such as heart problems and diabetes, sleep apnea is a treatable condition. Treatment options will very much depend on the cause of sleep apnea.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
Often associated with loud snoring, sleep apnea is a condition in which breathing pauses for periods of time during sleep. This may last for many seconds, eventually causing the brain to “start” the body awake in order to resume breathing. A person with sleep apnea may not remember or be aware of these breathing episodes that can occur up to 30 times or more per hour in a severe case.
Obstructive sleep apnea is indicated by some sort of blockage of the airways, but the reasons for the airway blockage can vary. Sometimes obstructive sleep apnea is related to too much weight in the neck, so that the breathing passages collapse in on themselves due to gravity when the person is lying down. Some people have sleep apnea related to asthma, allergies, or other types of illness that causes nasal congestion. And some people have structural problems inside their jaws or noses that make breathing difficult to during sleep.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
People who have sleep apnea typically exhibit at least some of these signs and symptoms:
- Loud and/or chronic snoring
- Observed instances of pauses in breathing during sleep
- Morning headaches
- Waking with a feeling of choking or gasping for air
- High blood pressure
- Waking with very dry mouth or sore throat
- Difficulty with concentration
- Irritability, personality changes, reduced libido, relationship struggles
- Falling asleep during activity such as driving or working
- Insomnia or inability to gain restorative sleep
Sleep Apnea Diagnosis
If you or someone you know is experiencing some of these signs or symptoms of sleep apnea, a visit to a medical professional should be a priority. Diagnosis of sleep apnea typically includes a sleep study performed at a sleep clinic.
During a sleep study, the patient will spend the night at the clinic (more like a hotel room than a hospital room) attached to various non-invasive machines to take measurements. These machines will measure blood oxygen levels, breathing rates, brain waves, blood pressure, limb movements, and other needed information.
Sometimes, halfway through a sleep study, if it is determined that the patient has sleep apnea, the doctor will begin treatment with a breathing machine (CPAP) to determine its effectiveness as a potential treatment. People with nasal congestion may not respond well to CPAP treatment.
Treatment for Sleep Apnea
In most cases, sleep apnea can be treated with non-invasive methods through weight loss, sleep positional therapy, or the use of a breathing machine. Sometimes, in certain situations, surgery is required if a structural problem is the cause. Many times, children who have sleep apnea benefit from removal of enlarged tonsils or adenoids that may be blocking their ability to breathe during sleep. Other surgeries used to aid with sleep apnea may include jaw reformation, reducing an enlarged tongue, or rhinoplasty.
Rhinoplasty for Sleep Apnea
Rhinoplasty is basically a surgery performed to reshape the nose–commonly known as a “nose job”. In relationship to sleep apnea, this delicate surgery is performed on the nose to reduce the effects of blocked airways and restore appropriate breathing. People who have rhinoplasty performed in order to reduce the effects of sleep apnea should qualify for coverage by medical insurance.
Some people have struggles with sleep apnea because their nose was once broken and it healed incorrectly. This crooked healing of a broken nose is sometimes the cause of a “deviated septum” and can block the airways. While breathing appliances are typically used at the start, people with extreme nasal congestion may not benefit from the use of a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine (CPAP) because the air cannot get through.
People who are having rhinoplasty performed because of sleep apnea should be sure that their surgeon is experienced in their specific needs. While rhinoplasty for sleep apnea is performed for medical reasons, there will likely be an impact on the aesthetic aspects of the face as well. Working in conjunction with an otolaryngologist will help with functioning, while a plastic surgeon will be able to assure that the way the nose looks is considered as well.
Anesthesia for people with sleep apnea can be complicated and a CPAP machine may be recommended for use during recovery time. Sleep apnea patients are often more sensitive to pain medications, which means their physicians should be very careful in monitoring them if sedatives are used following surgery.
Studies have shown that people who suffer from sleep apnea related to nasal congestion can often benefit from functional rhinoplasty. The idea of surgery may be scary, but treating sleep apnea is very important as it can make you very ill and even shorten your life. Check with your doctor to find out if rhinoplasty for sleep apnea is a viable option for you.