Today, sleep apnea is a commonly recognized phrase. But what is less known is just how serious sleep apnea can be. For most people, the risk of heart attack is lowest between midnight and 6a.m. But the reverse is true for people who have obstructive sleep apnea. These early morning hours are quite literally deadly.
This makes treating sleep apnea an urgent medical matter. The American Sleep Apnea Association estimates that, of the 22+ million people (adults and children) suffering from sleep apnea, up to 80 percent may be currently unaware of their condition. The only way to remedy this is to make more information publicly available about the symptoms of sleep apnea.
In this article, learn the basic information you need to decide whether or not to seek a consultation with Dr. Jamali about sleep apnea for yourself or a loved one.
Sleep Apnea Defined
Sleep apnea can be either obstructive or central. Obstructive type, which is the one most people recognize and know about, is caused by an obstruction to the throat area that causes breathing to stop.
Central type, which is much less well known, is caused when there is a miscommunication between brain and respiratory muscles, with the result that breathing stops.
Because sleep apnea has become so closely associated with older men who are overweight, many sufferers who do not fit this criteria may not think they could possibly have sleep apnea. The truth is, sleep apnea can literally affect anyone, anywhere, regardless of age, weight, size, shape, ethnicity or gender.
What Are the Main Symptoms of Sleep Apnea?
The symptoms of central sleep apnea are largely confined to breathing cessation when the brain and body miscommunicate. The best-known symptom, loud snoring at night, is typically totally absent in cases of central sleep apnea.
Obstructive sleep apnea, on the other hand, has a list of more recognizable symptoms, making this type of sleep apnea far easier to spot:
- Loud night-time snoring, often detected by a parent or partner.
- Sudden waking, typically with the person gasping for air.
- Continual trips to the bathroom at night.
- Feeling like no amount of sleep is ever enough.
- Morning headaches or dry mouth or sore throat (or all).
- Daytime sleepiness, irritability, trouble focusing.
- History of GERD, allergies, deviated septum.
- Overweight or obesity.
- Thick neck, small jaw, large tongue and lots of soft palate tissue.
- Males over 40 are at higher risk, but women and children can also get sleep apnea.
- Family history of sleep apnea.
How is Sleep Apnea Diagnosed?
The first step in diagnosing sleep apnea is often due to the negative effect symptoms have on a person’s quality of life.
The person often has no idea they may have sleep apnea, but they do know they are tired all the time, especially first thing in the morning. Their parent (in the case of a child) or partner may also have noticed loud snoring and reported it to them.
So often the person will seek out an appointment with their family doctor, who will then refer them to a sleep specialist for a consultation and a sleep study. If the sleep study confirms that the person is in fact not breathing for short spurts during the night, then it is time to pursue treatment options for sleep apnea with Dr. Jamali.
What Role Do Tonsils Play in Sleep Apnea?
The structure of a person’s neck, jaw, tongue and soft palate (including tonsils, adenoids and uvula) plays a major role in cases of obstructive sleep apnea.
For example, a person who has a wider neck circumference, a large tongue, a small jaw and a more substantial soft palate area is more likely to experience night-time sleep obstructions than someone without these physical characteristics.
The tonsils are located on either side of the soft palate and can be seen just above and to either side of the uvula (the flap of skin that hangs down at the back of the mouth). The adenoids are usually not visible, since they are located higher up in the nasal passages above the uvula. But both are part of the soft tissue that makes up the soft palate, which is a principle cause of airway obstruction in cases of obstructive sleep apnea.
For this reason, sometimes a tonsillectomy and/or adenoidectomy is recommended to ease or eliminate sleep apnea symptoms, especially if either or both areas are larger than normal or tend to get swollen frequently due to illness or allergies.
What Types of Sleep Apnea Treatments Are Available?
The sleep apnea type and severity of symptoms typically indicates the recommended course of treatment.
For central sleep apnea, the most common treatment is lifestyle modification combined with a night-use breathing device.
For obstructive sleep apnea, many patients want a more permanent solution than ongoing use of a breathing device. For these patients, the best approach is often orthognathic (jaw) surgery to permanently realign and reconstruct the jaw and soft palate area to prevent night-time breathing obstructions. In certain cases, orthognathic surgery may be combined with correction for a deviated septum or tonsillectomy/adenoidectomy.
Contact Dr. Jamali’s Office Today
Dr. Jamali is a board-certified New York City, NY, oral and maxillofacial surgeon with specializations in anesthesia, trauma, dentistry, plastic surgery, otolaryngology (ENT) and orthognathic surgery (jaw surgery).
Dr. Jamali’s background includes earning his doctorate in dentistry at Tufts University and his surgical specialization at the renowned Kings County Hospital Center, one of the nation’s largest Level One trauma centers. His orthognathic (jaw) surgery fellowship was completed at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York.
Dr. Jamali’s practice is located in New York City, NY, and he maintains affiliations at several outpatient surgical centers and hospitals for the convenience of his patients. If you have questions or wish to schedule a consultation with Dr. Jamali, you can reach us at 212-480-2777 or online at www.omsofny.com.