When the tonsils, tongue, or oral tissue impedes breathing during sleep, we call this sleep apnea. There’s a reason why sleep apnea has been called the silent killer. According to the National Sleep Foundation, as many as 20 million Americans live with the condition. Of those, we believe that only 10 percent are actually aware of it. Dr. Colin Lathrop, who diagnoses sleep apnea in Katy, TX, explains that patients may avoid seeking treatment because they confuse the condition with chronic snoring.
Health Consequences of Untreated Sleep Apnea
Unlike snoring, sleep apnea poses serious health risks. Dr. Lathrop encourages his patients to seek timely treatment for snoring, regardless of whether they suspect that the problem is apnea-related. Symptoms that may indicate apnea instead of snoring include high blood pressure, weight gain, daytime drowsiness, and fatigue. Women who have sleep apnea may experience loss of libido, and male sleep apnea patients are at risk for erectile dysfunction. We attribute this to testosterone levels, which fluctuate based on how much sleep an individual gets. Inadequate sleep lowers testosterone levels, whereas sleeping too much drives levels upward. Because sleep apnea compromises the quality and duration of sleep, it stands to reason that sexual dysfunction may occur as a result.
Treatment Options for Sleep Apnea and Snoring
A patient who has obstructive sleep apnea will not likely see results from over-the-counter anti-snoring treatments such as nasal strips or sprays. In many cases, lifestyle changes are sufficient to produce improvements. Think weight loss, discontinuing use of sleep aids and alcohol, and even stress management techniques. In addition to these recommendations, Dr. Lathrop will determine whether an oral appliance will improve breathing. The appliance holds the jaw in place during sleep, preventing the airway from becoming obstructed. Even the position in which a patient sleeps can affect the ability to breathe.
In severe cases, continuous positive airway pressure, or a CPAP machine, is needed. If so, Dr. Lathrop will refer the patient to a specialist. While the patient sleeps, a mask covers the mouth and nose, delivering oxygen from a bedside machine. Rarely, surgical intervention is recommended.
Questions about snoring in Katy, TX? To learn more about snoring and sleep apnea, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Colin Lathrop, contact us at 832-437-3849. Our office welcomes patients living in Fulshear, Weston Lakes, Simonton, Richmond, Rosenberg, and the surrounding areas. Follow us on Facebook for the latest news and oral health insights.