Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a disorder characterized by a reduction or cessation (pause of breathing) during sleep . An apnea is a period of time during which breathing stops or is markedly reduced. In simplified terms, an apnea occurs when a person stops breathing for 10 seconds or more. Obstructive sleep apnea can be caused by obstructions (blockage) in the airway or defects in the respiratory control centers in the brain (central apnea).

OSA is a fairly common, but very serious condition. When a person with this syndrome falls asleep, the airway collapses (or narrows and becomes constricted) and disrupts normal breathing patterns. This can occur hundreds of times throughout the night, putting a great amount of stress on the vital organs like the heart and lungs as well as interrupting normal sleep cycles.

If left untreated, OSA may lead to other conditions:

Because adequate alertness is necessary for well-being and performance, the specialists at Houston Methodist employ a multidisciplinary approach to the diagnosis and treatment of obstructive sleep apnea.

Symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea

There are several common symptoms of sleep apnea:
  • Loud snoring, long pauses in breathing and gasps for air
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness (while at work, in social situations or while driving)
  • Trouble concentrating during the day
  • Irritability
  • Morning headaches
  • Nausea upon awakening
  • Frequent urination at night

Causes of Obstructive Sleep Apnea There are many factors that may increase your risk of OSA1:
  • Narrow throat
  • Lower jaw that is short compared to your upper jaw
  • Certain shapes of the roof of your mouth (palate) or airway that cause it to collapse more easily
  • Large neck or collar size (17 inches or more in men and 16 inches or more in women)
  • Large tongue, which may fall back and block the airway
  • Obesity
  • Large tonsils or adenoids in children that can block the airway

Diagnosing Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Our team of sleep specialists can help diagnose and offer treatment options unique to each patient’s condition. Our doctors will review your medical history, conduct an examination of your mouth, neck and throat, and ask about your sleep habits. A sleep study may also be needed to confirm your diagnosis.

Treatment for Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Our sleep disorder specialists will help determine the best treatment option for your condition. Most treatment involves keeping your airway open while you sleep so your breathing is not interrupted.
  • Lifestyle changes could include several conditions:
      • Avoiding alcohol or certain medicines before bedtime
      • Avoiding sleeping on your back
      • Losing excess weight
  • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) devices
  • Dental devices that keep your jaw forward and the airway open while sleeping

The doctors and other sleep specialists at Houston Methodist provide comprehensive care for patients with obstructive sleep apnea.

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