What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) afflicts over 40 million Americans. Only a fraction of this number are diagnosed, and even fewer are treated effectively. This is a major health issue, as the consequences of untreated sleep apnea include elevated blood pressure, hypercholesterolemia, increased risk of stroke, elevated blood sugar with risk of diabetes, gastroesophageal reflux, anxiety, irritability, and depression. Excessive daytime sleepiness can be fatal; more people are killed by sleepy drivers than by drunken drivers. It is worth noting that approximately one in four truck drivers is affected by OSA.
Besides outright OSA, at least 80 million Americans snore. Snoring is not just an embarrassing or cosmetic concern. Snoring is a sign of restricted airlfow during sleep. This restricted airflow and impeded breathing often results in excessive daytime sleepiness, causes a higher rate of headaches in snorers than in non-snorers, dimishes the overall quality of life, and adversely affects the sleep quality of the snorer’s bed partners. Many snorers are banished to a seperate bedroom.
Snoring and OSA affect all ages. Even though the prototypical snorer or obstructed airway patient may be an older and overweight male, women and children are affected, too. OSA in children produces symptoms similar to attention deficit or hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Even slender men, women, and children may have OSA due to an inherited small airway or to tonsils, adenoids, or other airway obstructions.
How is Obstructive Sleep Apnea Treated
Compressed Poisitive Air Pressure (CPAP) devices are considered the gold standard for treatment of OSA and snoring, but CPAP is not always effective or practical. Common problems experienced by CPAP users include nasal congestion, mask leaks with air blowing into the eyes, air leaking out of the mouth, aerophagia (air inflating the stomach), mask dermatitis, and sinusitis. In addition, the noise of a CPAP pump prevents some patients and their bed partners from initiating sleep, and movement during the night can displace the mask. CPAP also requires a dependable and convenient source of 110-volt electricity and distilled water for the humidifier, which are not always available to travelers. OSA patients and snorers need an alternative to use when they are intolerant to CPAP and when CPAP is not practical. The EMA custom oral appliance (“EMA”) can fill this need. Medical authorities support use of the EMA applicance. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) now recommends oral appliances like the EMA as a front line of treatment for snoring and mild to moderate sleep apena, and in cases where CPAP has not been tolerated. Furthermore, the FDA has approved the EMA for the treatment of both obstructive sleep apnea and snoring.
If you have OSA and if you are interested in non-invasive appliance therapy, ask Dr. Howlett or his office staff for more information.