Experts around the world continue to emphasize the importance of a healthy lifestyle, including weight loss, in the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea. However, weight is not always the determining factor in sleep apnea, as it recently is being found more in thin, young women as well as children. So what are the treatment options for someone with sleep apnea, and can it be cured?
When it comes to “curing” sleep apnea, there’s no proven method that works for everyone, as every case is different. That being said, theres a lot of progress in most cases that can be made with simple diet and exercise. The reason for this is simple, as you reduce the amount of weight stored on your body (specifically around the neck), there is less force on your airway as you sleep at night. This reduction in weight, if significant enough, can eliminate sleep apnea in some cases, and will significantly reduce the AHI of the patient in almost all cases.
However, in some cases, obstructive sleep apnea is more of an anatomical issue, rather than an issue of weight. In these cases, there are other options.
Often viewed as a last resort, surgery can be preformed to help reduce the severity or, in some cases, cure sleep apnea. Most surgeries for sleep apnea involve removing the excess tissues from the throat and upper airway where the blockages occur. These types of surgeries are extremely invasive and require several months to recover and including learning how to swallow again.
For most people, if weight loss isn’t enough, less invasive options such as oral appliances or CPAP should be tried before considering surgery.
Other Treatment Options
The CPAP (which stands for continuous positive airway pressure) is a machine that uses air pressure to keep the airway open at night, preventing blockages. Once you find a mask and a machine that work for you, the CPAP can treat sleep apnea extremely effectively, often curing sleep apnea while the CPAP is being worn. If you have tried CPAP and cant tolerate the mask and hose, or simply don’t enjoy traveling with it, there is a smaller option for you.
Oral Appliance Therapy
Oral appliance therapy is a great treatment for those who have tried and failed CPAP. Similar to Invisalign retainers, the oral appliance connects to the teeth and are easily tolerated by the vast majority of patients. The two trays are then connected by bands, bars, or by some other method. This connection holds the lower jaw forward, keeping it from falling back at night and closing off the airway.