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Treatments for Sleep Apnea

If you suspect you may have OSA, please see your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment options. There are various forms of treatment available and may include the following.

Appliances

CPAP

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) is the most common therapy for OSA. The system includes a nasal mask that blows air through the nose or nose and mouth to keep the airway open during sleep. Though CPAP has been found to be effective, many people find it to be difficult to use. CPAP should be used nightly to benefit from its effects.

Dental Appliances

A mouth guard can be made to keep the lower jaw and tongue in a forward position. These devices are mostly used to treat snoring and patients with mild sleep apnea.1

Surgery

A number of surgical procedures exist to treat OSA. They mainly focus on the palate or the back of the tongue as these are the areas that fall back in the airway during sleep. These procedures can be conducted singularly or in combination with other procedures/therapies. The tongue is implicated in approximately 80% of OSA.

Palate-Based Surgeries

Palate-based surgeries include the removal of part of the soft palate, uvula and other tissue. Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) is the most common procedure. Somnoplasty or radiofrequency ablation, uses radiofrequency energy to stiffen the soft palate by shrinking the tissue. It can also be used to treat the back of the tongue to reduce the volume of tissue.

Tongue-Based Surgeries

Tongue-based surgeries are another method to minimize tongue-based obstruction in the back of the throat. The surgeries either consist of tongue advancement or suspension, tissue reduction (Somnoplasty), hyoid suspension and maxillomandibular advancement.   

Multi-Level Surgery

Since most obstructive sleep apnea involves more than one area of airway obstruction, the most effective surgical treatments for patients with mulit-level obstructions are those that address multiple levels of the airway. For instance, a UPPP may be combined with tongue suspension during the same surgery. 

Tracheostomy

Tracheostomy is only performed for severe OSA cases where other surgeries or treatments have failed.

Lifestyle Management

Lifestyle changes can also help alleviate OSA. Weight loss is the simplest treatment for OSA in obese patients.2 Other techniques include avoiding sleeping on the back, alcohol and sedatives or sleeping pills.

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  1. Marklund M et al. The effect of mandibular advancement device on apneas and sleep in patients with obstructive sleep apnea. Chest 1998; 113:707-13.
  2. Lyle V. Obstructive Sleep Apnea. American Family Physician 1999, 60:2279-80