Obstructive Sleep Apnea Information, Symptoms and Treatment

Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by an obstruction of the airway and pauses breathing during sleep. Apnea means “without breathe” and each episode lasts long enough that one or more breathes are missed. Many individuals will experience episodes of obstructive sleep apnea only for a brief period of time. This may occur when a person has nasal congestion with swelling or tonsillitis. This may also happen when a person is under the influence of a drug, like alcohol, that excessively relaxes the body.
Obstructive sleep apnea can happen to anyone of any age. In adults, this syndrome is typically linked to people who suffer from obesity. When there is extra weight in the face and neck area, there is a decrease in muscle tone which can cause the airway to collapse. Obesity however, is not the only factor. Children, unlike adults, usually seem to suffer from obstructive sleep apnea when they are thin because their body may not be able to thrive when the body is deprived of oxygen. In children it is usually caused by tonsils blocking the airways and can then be cured with tonsillectomy.

Common symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea will include daytime tiredness, sleeping restless and heavy snoring accompanied with timeframes of silence and gasps for air. Less frequent or common symptoms are headaches, insomnia, trouble concentrating and mood swings. According to Wikipedia, a person might also experience increased blood pressure, decreased sex drive, frequent heartburn, unexplained weight gain or heavy night sweats.

Old age, decreased muscle tone in the face and neck that can be caused by drugs or alcohol, increased soft tissue around the airway that is sometimes due to obesity, and brain injury are some of the factors that can be linked to the cause of obstructive sleep apnea.

There are several treatments available for obstructive sleep apnea that all depend on the person’s medical history, the severity of the disorder, and especially the specific cause of the obstruction of the airway. If the lymphoid tissue is enlarged to cause the obstruction, a doctor may prescribe an anti-inflammatory steroid such as prednisone. If the tonsils are enlarged and the anti-inflammatory doesn’t work, removing the tonsils is then the best treatment option. This is usually the case for children with the disorder. Some treatments for adults however, simply consist of lifestyle changes. These changes may be avoiding alcohol, quitting smoking, or losing weight. Some people are told to use special pillows to keep them from sleeping on their back, or breathing machines to keep the airway open during sleep.