Treating sleep apnea – your life depends on it
It is very important to request a medical evaluation if sleep apnea is suspected. A sufferer can completely stop breathing numerous times per hour, and this can lead to a deadly situation. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the soft tissue lying at the back of the victim’s throat collapses into the airway. The tongue then falls towards the back of the throat, which increases the blockage and keeps oxygen from entering the lungs.
Eventually the chest region, diaphragm, and abdomen fight for air, which in turn can cause a more severe blockage. The patient must arouse from a deep sleep to thrust the tongue out and away from the soft tissue blocking the airway. Sleep apnea has been linked to various heart-related conditions, and should be investigated by the patient at the earliest opportunity. Because sleep apnea causes carbon dioxide levels to skyrocket, and oxygen levels to decrease, the heart has to pump harder and faster to offset the lack of oxygen. Sleep apnea victims can technically “die” several times each night.
Types of sleep apnea
There are two main types of this disorder: central sleep apnea and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain fails to send signals to the breathing muscles. Obstructive sleep apnea takes place when air cannot flow through the nose or mouth even though the body is still trying to breathe. Obstructive sleep apnea is far more common and can usually be treated by a dentist.
What does sleep apnea treatment involve?
Initially, Dr. Atkins will conduct tests in order to investigate, and do an initial screening for sleep apnea. He will then refer you to a medical doctor for a formal medical diagnosis. After the diagnosis, Dr. Atkins can offer many different treatment options, which depend largely on the exact diagnosis and the health of the patient. The medical doctor and/or Dr. Atkins may advise the patient to stop some habits that exacerbate sleep apnea such as smoking, alcohol consumption, and tranquilizer use.
Some patients still wear CPAP (Continuous Positive Air Pressure) masks to keep their airways open while they sleep, but nowadays there are some less intrusive options. Dr. Atkins offers a variety of dental devices that gently move the lower jaw forward to prevent the tongue from falling back and blocking the main air passage. These dental devices that are gentle and easy to wear often help patients avoid unwanted surgeries. They’re great for traveling, too.
Oral surgery is a painful option, and may work for some people.
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Sleep apnea is a life-threatening sleep disorder typified by recurring pauses in breathing during sleep. The phrase sleep apnea stems from Greek language, and means “without breath.” Breathing cessations can last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes, and can occur as often as 30 times or more per hour. Continual disturbed breathing results in the carbon dioxide and oxygen levels in the bloodstream being out of balance, as too little carbon dioxide is exiting and an inadequate supply of oxygen is entering the body.
Sensing this unevenness, the brain sends a message to the body, and tells it to restart breathing. People with sleep apnea will partly wake up several times a night as they strain to breathe. The sound comes out as loud snoring or choking. Because people with sleep apnea don’t always fully awaken during the occurrences, they are often unaware they have sleep apnea and it can remain undiagnosed, unless a proactive sleeping partner records the noise and presents it to the sufferer when they they’re awake.
Signs of obstructive sleep apnea include early morning headaches, daytime sleepiness, and insomnia. Fortunately, Dr. Atkins is equipped with the necessary expertise and training to help treat sleep apnea in several different ways.