Forms of Treatment
CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure)
CPAP is the standard treatment option for moderate to severe cases of OSA and a good option for mild sleep apnea. First introduced for the treatment of sleep apnea in 1981, CPAP provides a steady stream of pressurized air to patients through a mask that they wear during sleep. This airflow keeps the airway open, preventing pauses in breathing and restoring normal oxygen levels. Newer CPAP models are small, light and virtually silent. Patients can choose from numerous mask sizes and styles to achieve a good fit. Heated humidifiers that connect to CPAP units contribute to patient comfort.
Oral appliances are an effective treatment option for people with mild to moderate OSA who either prefer it to CPAP or are unable to successfully comply with CPAP therapy. Oral appliances look much like sports mouth guards, and they help maintain an open and unobstructed airway by repositioning or stabilizing the lower jaw, tongue, soft palate or uvula. Some are designed specifically for snoring, and others are intended to treat both snoring and sleep apnea. They should always be fitted by dentists who are trained in sleep medicine.
Surgery is a treatment option for OSA when noninvasive treatments such as CPAP or oral appliances have been unsuccessful. It is most effective when there is an obvious anatomic deformity that can be corrected to alleviate the breathing problem. Otherwise, surgical options most often address the problem by reducing or removing tissue from the soft palate, uvula, tonsils, adenoids or tongue. More complex surgery may be performed to adjust craniofacial bone structures. Surgical options may require multiple operations and positive results may not be permanent. One of the most common surgical methods is uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP), which trims the size of the soft palate and may involve the removal of the tonsils and uvula. Adenotonsillectomy, the surgical removal of the tonsils and adenoids, is the most common treatment option for children with OSA. Other children with sleep apnea may benefit from CPAP.