Sleep apnea is a common but serious condition that can occur in men, women, and, occasionally, children. This disorder causes an individual to repeatedly pause their breathing for various lengths of time during sleep. As a result, patients can experience mild to severe effects—some even life-threatening. While children overall are less likely to have sleep apnea, children born with jaw deformities are at a higher risk of developing this disorder. A wide range of treatments is available, including surgical and non-surgical techniques. Our extensively trained craniofacial surgeon can customize an orthognathic surgery approach to best suit your needs. Dr. Eric Payne understands that your child’s health and well-being are of utmost concern, and he will provide attentive, compassionate care from the moment you schedule a consultation.
If you’re concerned that you or a loved one may have sleep apnea, please contact our practice today. Our skilled and friendly medical team can answer your questions and help you schedule a consultation.
How does sleep apnea occur?
This condition can happen as a result of many reasons, but the most common cause is due to a physical blockage of the airway. Called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), this concern is often the result of oral tissues like the tonsils, the tongue, or relaxed throat muscles blocking the breathing passage. Individuals who have larger than average tonsils, a small jaw, or a combination of factors may be more likely to experience OSA. Additionally, a cleft palate can also lead to problems with sleep apnea. CSA, or central sleep apnea, is another type of this condition. In this case, the muscles used in breathing do not receive the signals from the brain to function. Mixed, or complex sleep apnea is when both causes may be present.
One of the most recognizable symptoms of sleep apnea is snoring. Patients are often unaware that they are snoring or experiencing breathing pauses during sleep. While the brain often wakes the body up in order to restart breathing, most people do not recall these brief moments of consciousness. They often only notice that they are unusually tired during waking hours. Fatigue, however, is only one of many effects sleep apnea can cause.
What are the risks associated with sleep apnea?
In addition to fatigue and drowsiness, sleep apnea can cause headaches, memory loss, gastric reflux disease, anxiety, stress, and depression. These issues are often attributed to some other cause and not recognized as consequences of sleep apnea. Snoring can also bother spouses, sleeping partners, and siblings who share a room. Furthermore, long-term sleep apnea can lead to severe health problems, including:
- Congestive heart failure
- Heart attack
- Sudden cardiac arrest
- High blood pressure
In adults, sleep apnea may also result in sexual dysfunction. If you, your child, or a loved one snores, experiences breathing pauses of several seconds or more, or gasps/chokes during sleep, it’s always best to have them evaluated for sleep apnea due to the serious effects this condition can cause.
What are the treatment options?
Many cases of obstructive sleep apnea can be addressed using non-surgical techniques. Oral appliances, such as a night guard, can be used to maintain an open airway during sleep. Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy can be an effective solution for individuals experiencing any type of sleep apnea. Sometimes lifestyle changes can help adults manage the symptoms, such as sleeping on one’s side instead of on the back, reducing alcohol consumption, or losing weight. If physical deformities are contributing to the problem, surgery may be necessary. Orthognathic surgery (jaw surgery) may be recommended where a child has an unusually small or recessed jaw, and a tonsillectomy may be appropriate if the tonsils are oversized. During your initial consultation, Dr. Payne will discuss the ideal approach for your unique situation. Multiple techniques may be advised, depending on the individual needs of the patient.
Sleep apnea can be a complicated condition, and we’re to help you understand your options. Contact our practice today to learn more or to schedule a consultation with Dr. Payne.