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Snoring and Obstuctive sleep apnea

Saturday, 10 July 2010

This topic will be about about "Sleep apnea" and that was suggested by our facebook member Dorothy.
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Let's define apnea first:
Apnea is the cessation of airflow at the nostrils and mouth for at least 10 seconds in adults.

What is sleep apnea ?
It is the stop of breathing during sleep for more than 10 seconds

Types of sleep apnea:
1. Obstructive sleep apnea: there is apnea but the individual continues to do inspiratory effort to overcome this apnea
2. Central sleep apnea: there is apnea but all inspiratory efforts are abolished
3. Mixed apnea
Today we will explain more about Obstructive sleep apnea as it is more commonly encountered. 

As the name suggests, there is an obstruction that is associated with this type. 

The following is a small diagram to illustrate some important landmarks during this topic 

So how this obstruction can lead to apnea ?

If there is an obstruction above the level of the larynx, it will cause collapse of the oropharynx during inspiration during sleep --> Apnea

The increased carbon dioxide in the blood will cause stimulation of the nervous system that will cause arousal from sleep. It is then when the airway gets patent again and the individual regains normal respiration and then falls sleep again. This cycle can repeat more than once in a single night which is affects the normal sleep of the individual. 
What can cause supra-laryngeal obsturction?
In the nose, there can be polyps or a deviated septum. Also tonsils, adenoids, large tongue can cause obstruction

So who are more prone to get obstructive sleep apnea ?
Obese individuals and male sex are more prone to get obstructive sleep apnea

Clinical picture of obstructive sleep apnea:
1. Snoring: it is a vibration of the soft palate, lateral pharyngeal wall and base of the tongue. This vibration will lead to a noisy breathing. 

2. Obstructive episodes: an episode of apnea that may last from 10 - 60 seconds. During this period, the individual will be exerting a marked respiratory effort to regain the normal respiration
3. Excessive day time sleepiness: due to affection of the normal night sleep
4. Morning headaches and impaired concentration

What is the treatment one should have to get rid of obstructive sleep apnea ?
There is a non-surgical and a surgical treatment

Non-surgical treatment:
1. Lose weight
2. Avoid alcohols and sedatives
3. Avoid lying supine
4. Continous positive airway pressure: the patient will wear a mask connected to a pump that will blow air at a higher pressure to prevent the collapse of the airway

Surgical treatment:
Aims at removing the cause of obstruction. If the cause is tonsils and adenoids, then an adenotonsillectomy is done.
An important operation is being done in many patients nowadays which is called Uvulo-Palato-Pharyngoplasty (UPPP). Done by laser involves removal of the tonsils, trimming of the pillars, removing the uvula and a part of the soft palate, therefore creating a wider airway passage. 


  1. hey doctor!
    I have a question. What is anaphase.

  2. Hello Sara,
    Anaphase is one of the stages in mitosis in which chromosomal separation occurs

  3. hai doc! I have question to ask.
    Which type of white blood cell are capable of leaving capillaries by passing through the endothelial wall of the capillaries.

  4. Hello,
    the answer is neutrophil



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