November 08, 2022 3 min read
Being diagnosed with sleep apnea can be frightening. Finding out that your breathing constantly stops as you sleep is scary enough. But learning that you also have a two-fold greater risk of stroke and a 15-30% increased risk of cancer can leave you feeling worried.
Luckily, sleep apnea is treatable. With proper treatment, sufferers can achieve normal sleep and significantly reduce their risk of complications.
But while it’s nice to know that there is a way to manage sleep apnea, what you really want is a cure. So, is there a permanent cure for sleep apnea? Here’s what is known about that topic so far.
Sleep apnea is a serious disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops during sleep. These pauses in breathing lead to a decrease in blood oxygen levels and arousal from sleep. As a result, sufferers have unrefreshing sleep that puts them at greater risk of:
To diagnose sleep apnea, doctors perform something called a sleep study (polysomnography). This comprehensive test looks at your brain activity, airflow, breathing patterns, and blood oxygen levels, among other things. Based on your apnea-hypopnea index (AHI), which is the number of times your breathing stops or lowers during sleep, your OSA can be classified as mild, moderate, or severe.
The goals of OSA treatment are to resolve its signs and symptoms, improve the quality of your sleep, and normalize your AHI score and blood oxygen levels. But as a chronic disease that requires lifetime management, OSA isn’t curable in the traditional sense of the word. But it is reversible, which means that your symptoms can completely resolve with the right treatment.
Studies looking into the efficiency of OSA therapies consistently find that they’re effective, especially for cases of moderate to severe OSA. The American College of Physicians recommends continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) as first-line therapy for OSA patients because CPAP was found to reduce AHI and arousal index scores, as well as increased oxygen saturation in those with at least moderate OSA.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine, American College of Physicians, International Geriatric Sleep Medicine Force and other organizations have developed clinical guidelines for the management of OSA. These guidelines usually recommend the following treatments:
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP)
CPAP therapy is the first-line treatment for moderate to severe OSA. CPAP is a type of breathing therapy where a device is used to deliver continuous air through a mask to keep the airways unblocked during sleep.
Switching to a side sleeping position, stopping smoking, avoiding alcohol and sleeping pills, and losing weight if overweight can all help resolve OSA, especially in mild cases.
Those with anatomical abnormalities or who do not respond to CPAP therapy may be candidates for surgery to treat OSA. The type of surgery depends on what is causing the obstruction. Anything from enlarged tonsils, a deviated septum, long palate or excess throat tissue can contribute to OSA.
Oral appliance therapy is recommended when patients who have trouble accepting CPAP or who have mild OSA or simple snoring. Oral appliances are medical devices that are placed inside the mouth to hold the tongue in place so the upper airways stay open. The Good Morning Snore Solution is one such appliance that has been clinically tested for safety and efficiency for mild to moderate snoring.
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Kendzerska T, Povitz M, Leung RS, et al. Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Incident Cancer: A Large Retrospective Multicenter Clinical Cohort Study.Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2021;30(2):295-304.doi:10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-20-0975
Slowik JM, Sankari A, Collen JF. Obstructive Sleep Apnea. [Updated 2022 Jun 28]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK459252/
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