What is Sleep Apnea and How Can it Be Treated – Kiran Tipirneni, M.D., F.A.C.S.

What is sleep apnea and how can it be treated? In this video, Kiran Tipirneni, M.D., F.A.C.S., a board-certified otolaryngologist at the Ear, Nose, Throat & Plastic Surgery Associates explains what sleep apnea is and what treatment options are available.

“Sleep apnea, specifically obstructive sleep apnea, is a condition where people have disruptive sleeping at night,” says Dr. Tipirneni. “This can vary in range and spectrum from just mild to moderate snoring, to periods where they’re stopped breathing at night, and that’s referred to as obstructive sleep apnea. Snoring by itself may not cause any medical issues, but it can be a social nuisance, and there are treatment options that we have here in our office that can help with snoring by itself. But if there’s some question of a person having more than just snoring and having sleep apnea, then we usually recommend patients obtain a polysomnogram, or sleep study.”

“A sleep study is done at a sleep center where you spend the night. It’s basically like a hotel room setting, and you sleep there and they’ll put monitors on you while you sleep. And they measure various things such as your heart rate, oxygen levels, brainwaves, respiratory rate, and different physiological functions. Based on that, we can figure out where on the scale that you fit, if you have just snoring, or mild, moderate, or severe obstructive sleep apnea.”

“In terms of treatment for obstructive sleep apnea, we usually try non-surgical methods first,” Dr. Tipirneni continues. “This is usually handled by the sleep medicine physician that performed the sleep study. One therapy for obstructive sleep apnea after it’s been diagnosed is using what’s called a CPAP, which is a positive airway pressure. A CPAP is a type of mask that allows increased air flow through the upper airways, so more air and oxygen get to the lungs, thereby treating the obstructive sleep apnea. If apnea is not treated, there can be long-term problems, such as increased risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.”

Obstructive sleep apnea is a medical problem that needs to be treated. In some cases, the CPAP is tolerated very well, and in other cases it is not. In those patients where CPAP is not tolerated and they’re looking for an alternative method for treatment of the apnea, other options would include a dental device to help bring the jaw forward to increase the airway in the oral cavity. Those also have mixed reviews, and some people tolerate them and others do not. If finally, all the non-surgical approaches have not succeeded, that’s where an ENT surgeon, such as myself, come into play.

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