Sleep apnea is a condition that affects millions of Americans from all walks of life. Despite the fact that it is so prevalent, it is widely misunderstood, and often goes untreated. Sleep apnea occurs when breathing is interrupted during sleep. The most common kind, obstructive sleep apnea, is due to blockage of the airway by soft tissue in the throat. Certain health factors, like smoking and obesity, increase the risk for this type of apnea (though not everyone with obstructive sleep apnea is a smoker or overweight). Much rarer is central sleep apnea, a condition in which signaling errors in the parts of the brain that control breathing cause breathing to momentarily stop during sleep.
Left untreated, both kinds of sleep apnea can cause serious long-term health problems, including an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and diabetes, as well as chronic daytime fatigue and associated problems. Lifestyle changes, such as weight loss and smoking cessation, can be helpful, but are not always enough to cure sleep apnea.
For moderate to severe cases of sleep apnea that are resistant to lifestyle changes and other kinds of treatment, assisted breathing machines and other devices can be very helpful. CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machines work by blowing slightly pressurized air through a mask fitted over the mouth and nose, just enough to keep the airway open and prevent obstruction. This treatment is indicated for patients with obstructive sleep apnea. BPAP (Bi-Level Positive Airway Pressure) and ASV (Adaptive Servo Ventilation) machines work in a similar way, but provide different levels of pressure (more pressure on the inhale, less on the exhale) to tailor the machine to individual needs, and is particularly helpful for patients with central sleep apnea. Although they are often very effective at treating sleep apnea, many patients find the CPAP and BPAP devices uncomfortable. An alternative is EPAP (Expiratory Positive Airway Pressure). With EPAP, a small, single-use device covers each nostril; a valve in the device lets air move in easily, but forces air on the exhale through small holes, creating pressure that keeps the airway open.
Edison Home Health Care is happy to advise and assist you or any loved one who seek appropriate care for sleeping problems. Give us a call at 888-311-1142, or fill out a contact form and we will respond shortly.