Treatment approaches for sleep apnea include lifestyle changes, mouthpieces, breathing devices and surgery. Medications are usually not used to treat the condition.
Aims of treating sleep apnea are:
For people with mild sleep apnea, changes in daily activities or habits may improve the symptoms. Lifestyle changes that are helpful to control sleep apnea include:
A mouthpiece (or an oral appliance) may be helpful for mild sleep apnea. It may be recommended by your doctor even if you have snoring without sleep apnea. A custom-fit plastic mouthpiece for treating sleep apnea can be made by a dentist or orthodontist. The mouthpiece is made in such a way that it keeps your airways open while you sleep.
If you have moderate to severe sleep apnea, your doctor will recommend a breathing device. CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) is a commonly used type of breathing device. The machine gently blows air, which gets directed to your throat with the help of a mask that fits over your mouth and nose or just over your nose. The air presses on the wall of your airway. The air pressure from the machine can be adjusted. The pressure is adjusted so it's just enough to stop the airways from becoming narrowed or blocked during sleep. If you stop using CPAP or if it is not used correctly, sleep apnea will return. Most people with sleep apnea generally feel much better and the symptoms decrease once they begin treatment with CPAP.
If your symptoms do not improve with CPAP and lifestyle changes, your doctor may recommend surgery. In surgery for sleep apnea, excess tissue from your nose or throat are removed that may be vibrating and causing you to snore or blocking your upper air passages and causing sleep apnea. Some surgeries done for sleep apnea include uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP), maxillomandibular advancement and tracheostomy. Your doctor will recommend surgery based on findings of examination and severity of your symptoms.
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