It's estimated that obstructive sleep apnea or OSA affects about 12 million Americans. Now a new device may make treatment easier.
Many people with OSA are unaware they have the condition. However, bed partners may notice two of the main symptoms associated with the condition: loud snoring and choking/gasping for breath during the night. Some spouses have noted that their partners appear to stop breathing for brief periods.
Despite having a full night’s sleep, patients don’t get refreshed because of constant arousals. Patients often wake up with a morning headache and are tired during the day. In addition, OSA can cause memory problems, difficulties with concentration, irritability, depression and mood swings. Over time, OSA is associated with an increased risk for high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke
Sleep apnea is a condition in which a person momentarily stops breathing several times during sleep. In obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), breathing is disrupted when the airway is temporarily blocked. It’s typically caused when the muscles in the upper part of the throat relax during sleep and collapse, closing off the airway. An episode of breathing cessation (called apnea) can last between 10 and 30 seconds. The lack of oxygen stimulates arousal, causing the person to gasp for air and resume normal breathing. OSA is defined as the presence of at least 5 episodes of apnea in a night. In severe cases, a patient may experience hundreds of apnea events in a single night.
One of the main treatments for obstructive sleep apnea is a machine called CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure). CPAP uses a mask to deliver a stream of pressurized air through the airway. This pressure keeps the airway open during sleep and prevents apnea. While CPAP can be an effective treatment, some people have a hard time adapting to the machine or dislike having to wear the mask while sleeping. One study reports up to 83 percent of patients who are prescribed CPAP fail to use the machine as directed.
Another option for some people is PROVENT™ Professional Sleep Apnea Therapy. PROVENT is an appliance that uses two separate plug-like components, one for each nostril. They are held in place by a small adhesive strip attached to the outside of the nostril.
Jay Berland, M.D., Pulmonologist in Lake Success, NY, explains that each of the PROVENT “plugs” has a specially designed MicroValve. During inhalation, the valves open, allowing air to freely flow into the nostrils. When breathing out, the valves close and exhaled air is forced through two small channels. The extra effort to exhale increases pressure inside the airways and keeps it from collapsing. PROVENT is disposable. So each morning, the appliance is removed and discarded.
Berland says CPAP is still the gold standard for treating obstructive sleep apnea. However, patients who are unable to use a CPAP machine, or find it intolerable may have success with PROVENT. Since the appliance is small, it may be useful for travelers who don’t want to carry cumbersome CPAP equipment on vacation.