ENT: “Snoring and sleep apnea is not only a medical problem, but also a social one.
Snoring is a problem faced by millions of people around the world. We will tell you in this article whether it is possible to get rid of it, and what are the consequences of sleep apnea.
- What is snoring and why does it occur?
Snoring itself is not a disease, but a sound phenomenon, the causes of which can be quite different.
It is a problem that bothers millions of people around the world. There are no accurate statistics, but according to some leading somnologists, about 30% of adults and 10-14% of children snore in their sleep all the time. Mostly they are patients with ENT-organ pathology.
Snoring can occur at any time of life, but every year the risk of encountering this problem increases – according to statistics, about half of men and women snore at an advanced age. This is due to the disorder of the muscle tone in the body: including the muscles of the soft palate become weaker, so that the inhale and exhale can be accompanied by a sound.
- Many people do not know that they snore, and some believe that it can only be an inconvenience to others, but certainly not lead to any problems with their own health. Is this true or can snoring be dangerous to a person?
A person cannot tell for himself why he snores and how harmless his snoring is. That is why snoring is always a reason to see a doctor for an examination to determine the cause. Our task is to separate those patients whose snoring is just an inconvenience for their sleep partner and those for whom it is a real health problem. And if in the first case we just give the person some everyday recommendations, in the second case we take urgent measures.
The fact is that snoring is often a sign of a dangerous disease – obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS). It occurs when there is a serious obstacle for the passage of air in the upper airways, and is characterized by stops breathing for more than 10 seconds. This results in a lack of oxygen during sleep, without which the brain and other organs suffer.
This leads to daytime sleepiness, lethargy, irritability, memory loss and headaches. OSAS has a tendency to progress, so if left untreated for a long time, the patient may develop such formidable diseases as hypertension, heart attacks and strokes, and may also experience sudden death in his sleep.
It is noted that this condition is not only a medical problem, but also a pronounced social problem. Patients with apnea, who are drivers of public transport, dispatchers, operators of complex equipment, perform other jobs connected with high danger, or even are behind the wheel of a private car, endanger the lives of many people. Therefore, treatment of OSAS allows not only to prevent the development of serious diseases in the patient, but also to prevent accidents that may arise due to his/her fault.
- What methods are used to treat obstructive sleep apnea syndrome?
First of all, it is necessary to understand what causes the obstruction (obstruction to free breathing) and eliminate its cause. If it is an ENT problem, an ENT specialist deals with it, if it is malocclusion, the patient is referred to an orthodontist etc. However, in general, treatment of OSAS is a complex story.
Today, both conservative and surgical methods of treatment are used – there are many of them and this indicates that all of them are not universal. Thus, the most frequent alternative to surgery for patients with moderate and severe apnea is CPAP therapy (Constant Positive Airway Pressure). It is based on the use of a special device with a mask that a person wears while sleeping. The device generates the so called prolonged positive airway pressure on the inhalation allowing the patient to breathe freely the whole night.
This method is widely used throughout the world: in some European countries, a patient diagnosed with apnea can get such a machine by insurance. However, although the therapy significantly improves a person’s quality of life, it does not eliminate the cause of the disease – if the patient is left without the device, snoring and breathing stops will quickly return.
For this reason, surgery is a more effective method of treating apnea. It allows you to return the airways to a state as close as possible to physiological norm, and significantly increases the chances of a complete cure.
Some specialists consider a severe degree of OSAS a contraindication for surgical treatment. However, based on the results of long-term observations, scientists came to the conclusion that by surgically removing the obstruction in these patients, it is possible to achieve a significant decrease in the severity of apnea and even complete recovery.
Therefore, if a patient with severe sleep apnea syndrome has problems of ENT nature, it is recommended at the first stage to perform surgical correction, and then, if necessary, to choose additional conservative treatment. For example, to recommend the patient CYPAP-therapy to reduce weight effectively – people who lack oxygen during sleep often cannot lose weight in any way, so their snoring and apnea progress.
One has to realize that surgery alone usually cannot solve the problem. This is why the patient is offered an individual plan for complex treatment, which is then implemented together with doctors from other departments. It may include weight loss with the help of a nutritionist, correction of bite, treatment of gastroenterological diseases, and much more.
- It is mentioned that patients with apnea need to make lifestyle changes. What should be done to avoid the return of the problem after surgery and to prevent the development of snoring in old age.
As mentioned earlier, the tone of the palatine curtain can decrease with age, but it is possible that muscle tone in the pharynx can be affected by muscle relaxants such as alcohol and nicotine. Alcohol abuse and smoking weaken the muscles even with a single exposure (you may have noticed that drunks often snore), and prolonged exposure can also lead to complete atrophy. Thus, people who smoke and drink alcohol regularly greatly increase their chances of starting to snore in old age, even in the complete absence of ENT problems.
Therefore, it’s quite simple. There are two universal tips for preventing snoring and apnea. The first one is to lead a healthy lifestyle and keep active, and the second one is to timely detect and treat ENT-organ pathology.
Unfortunately, many patients are still prejudiced against surgical treatment and choose conservative therapy, thinking it is safer. But this fear should not prevent you from listening to your doctor’s advice and choosing the most effective path to recovery.