Otolaryngologists or ENT doctors provide treatments for sleep apnea, a condition that is caused by problems with breathing while you sleep. It is frequently caused by obstructions in the nose or throat.
ENTs are sometimes able to stop sleep apnea through the use of highly targeted surgical procedures. ENTs are not just clinicians, but also surgeons.
Nasal Obstruction Causing Sleep Apnea
Many people don’t breathe properly through their nasal passages and don’t even realize it. Sleep apnea treatment starts with assessing your breathing.
The doctor will examine your nose and nasal passages and may use an endoscope to see the interior of your sinuses and nose. Imaging may also be required.
If the doctor discovers a nasal obstruction, they can perform surgery to bring fast and permanent relief.
Balloon Sinuplasty is a surgery that is minimally invasive and is usually perfect for mild sleep apnea. The ENT performs the procedure in the office using local anesthesia.
The downtime is minimal, and recovery is fast. A small balloon-like device is inserted into the nasal passage using an endoscope. The balloon gets inflated and opens the passages, so the obstruction is removed.
Normally your nose should be divided into two nostrils by a straight septum. If an injury or defect at birth causes the septum to be less than straight, you have a deviated septum. This can cause problems with airflow and make it difficult to breathe, especially if you are reclining or sleeping on your side.
A septoplasty returns the septum into the proper position, so you are able to breathe correctly through your nose.
Functional Endoscopic Sinus Surgery
Functional Endoscopic Sinus Surgery, also called FESS is used to remove nasal polyps, grape-like tissue growths that restrict breathing day and night.
These polyps can occur in the nasal passages or sinus cavities. An endoscope is used to remove the polyps and the recovery time is very short.
These sleep apnea surgeries are used by ENTs to improve breathing and may be all you need for sleep apnea treatment. But even if a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure(CPAP) device is still needed, it will function much better since you are breathing properly.
Non-Surgical Treatments for Sleep Apnea
ENTs will also prescribe CPAP machines to keep your airways open so you can breathe when you sleep. The mask fits the face or nose and applies pressure when you breathe in to keep your airways open.
Some people find the use of CPAP devices troublesome or uncomfortable. Make sure you see your ENT for proper fitting and airflow. With proper fitting and humidifiers, your CPAP machine should allow you to sleep safely and comfortably.
3 Causes for Sleep Apnea
- Obstructive sleep apnea – This is the more common form of sleep apnea that happens when the throat muscles relax.
- Central Sleep Apnea – This happens when your brain doesn’t send the right signals to the muscles that control breathing.
- Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome – This is also known as treatment-emergent central sleep apnea which happens when someone has both central and obstructive sleep apnea.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
The symptoms can overlap which can make it harder to determine which type you have. But the most common signs and symptoms include:
- Loud Snoring
- Episodes of not breathing during sleep, which would be observed by another person
- Gasping for air when sleeping
- Dry mouth when waking up
- Morning headaches
- Insomnia or difficulty sleeping
- Daytime sleepiness
- Difficulty paying attention during the day
Loud snoring can indicate a serious problem, but not everyone with sleep apnea snores. If you are experiencing these signs or symptoms, contact our ENT specialist. Don’t tolerate sleep problems that leave you feeling fatigued, tired, and irritable.
Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea
These are some factors that can increase the risk of sleep apnea:
- Excess weight – obesity increases the risk. Fat deposits around the airway can obstruct breathing.
- Neck circumference – People with thicker necks can have narrower airways.
- Getting older – It occurs more often in older adults.
- Family History – If you have family members with sleep apnea it increases your risk.
- Use of alcohol or sedatives – Substances like these can relax the throat muscles which can worsen the problem.
- Smoking – People are three times more likely to have this problem than people who have never smoked.
- Nasal congestion – Difficulty breathing through the nose increases the risk of sleep apnea.
- Other medical conditions – heart issues, high blood pressure, diabetes, Parkinson’s are some of the conditions that may increase your risk.