Sleep apnea is a respiratory disorder marked by upper airway obstruction which causes brief interruption of breathing during sleep typically longer than 10 seconds.
Eighteen million Americans have sleep apnea and even more -- 30 million -- snore. Sleep apnea occurs in all age groups and both sexes but is more common in men, among those who are overweight and in older age groups.
Nighttime gastroesophageal reflux is a common condition characterized by sleep disturbance due to severe heartburn and regurgitation of acidic stomach fluid into the esophagus. Many times snoring can also be a symptom of sleep apnea and is mostly commonly caused by vibrations of the soft palate and uvula.
Sleep apnea is a potentially life-threatening disease that may not only diminish life span but may also be an early symptom of hypertension, heart trouble, or stroke.
The best way to diagnose sleep apnea is a formal sleep study that is performed in a certified sleep center.
At Duke much research is being done on this subject at the Duke Sleep Disorders Center. The center offers clinical testing, sleep disorder education, and fitting of breathing apparatuses as well as follow up care.
Duke’s Sleep Lab team monitors patients at the center and identify predefined indicators of sleep disorders so that physicians can make proper diagnoses.
For those patients who are candidates for sleep surgery and have chronic snoring, the most common surgery is uvulopalatopharyngoplasty, or UPPP.
This procedure enlarges the airway by removing or shortening the uvula and removing the tonsils and adenoids, if present, as well as part of the soft palate or roof of the mouth. The uvula is the tissue that hangs from the middle of the back of the roof of the mouth.
UPPP requires general anesthetic and usually a two-week recovery period.
Comprehensive management of sleep apnea requires a full evaluation and medical exam. Often, other areas of the airway such as the nose or tongue contribute to obstructive sleep apnea.
Physicians offering this service include:
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