Healthy Body: I have sleep apnea - now what?

That's it: The diagnosis is made and you suffer from sleep apnea. Several emotions surface. Disappointment, worry, nervousness... how do you choose the right treatment? You may feel a little lost. But the good news is, although sleep apnea can not be cured, there are effective and comfortable treatments to overcome this unfortunate syndrome.

In your researching process, it is important to work with your sleep-related health professionals as well as a pulmonologist. They are valuable allies in ensuring that the treatment is appropriate for your condition.

Doctor, I'm lost!

There are some treatments that can correct sleep apnea, the treatments of choice being the CPAP device, mandibular advancement prosthesis and uvulopalatopharyngoplasty surgery (UPPP).

Come on, let's unravel it!

The positive pressure apparatus.

You must have heard about the famous "mask." It is a positive pressure device called cpap (continuous positive airway pressure). The most widely used treatment for sleep apnea, it involves sending air pressure into the airways to prevent sagging.

This type of treatment is the most effective. However, we must take the time to get used to our new sleep partner. It may seem uncomfortable at first, but you have to be patient. Some people see an improvement in symptoms the first night but it is not impossible that it will take longer for you. In order to get the most benefit, you must wear the device every night for a minimum of four hours. The longer you wear it (even during naps), the more you will feel rested.

Of course, in order to send the pressure, you will have to wear a mask. Know that there are many models. It is important to find the most suitable for you. If it is uncomfortable or not waterproof, your experience will be negative and may result in you stopping treatment. When choosing your healthcare provider, make sure that you can try several of them and have the opportunity to change it at no cost, within 30 days, if it is not appropriate.

You will see, the devices are quiet and much more compact than in the past. There are mini transport devices for people who travel a lot. The devices even have a modem, allowing your healthcare team to follow your treatment remotely and to intervene quickly in case of problems.

It is important to carefully choose the clinic you are going to work with. Beware of internet shopping. Prices may be tempting but be aware that you will not be able to try masks, you will have no follow-up of your treatment and if you have a problem with your device (broken), you will have no support.

The treatment with cpap is serious and requires a good follow-up. After all, would you let warehouse staff take charge of your health?

The mandibular advancement orthosis

There are different types of oral appliances called mandibular advancement orthoses (OAMs) that progressively advance the lower jaw (mandible) to clear the upper airway and facilitate the passage of air.

OAMs must be tailor-made according to your dentition by a qualified dentist or orthodontist (beware of those who improvise themselves as sleep disorder specialists as well as orthoses sold on the internet). They consist of two aligners adapted to your teeth and are maintained by a mechanism that advances the lower jaw until the snoring disappears and the number of respiratory stops are reduced. These devices are especially effective for people with mild or moderate apnea.

The dentist or orthodontist will determine if it is possible for you to wear an orthosis. However, you will need to meet a pulmonologist to obtain the prescription. After the installation of your orthosis, you will have to redo a study of your sleep patterns to make sure that the use of this one corrects your apnea well.

Surgery

Several types of operations to reduce snoring and apnea exist but their effectiveness is relatively low and apneas tend to reappear sometime after the procedure.

Surgery performed by an ENT is a treatment of last resort for those unable to adapt to CPAP or whose orthosis does not work. This involves removing tissue from the palate or back of the throat to increase the volume of the airways.

If you are considering this type of surgery, you should be aware of the failure rate and success associated with it.

You are not alone!

The important thing is to surround yourself with a team of professionals who are attentive to your needs and expectations that can support you in your approach to health.

Josée Bergeron is a respiratory therapist specializing in sleep disorders since 2001 and part owner of the Complete Cpap Care sleep clinic. Follow them on Facebook too!

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