What alternative treatments exist for sleep apnea?
Although Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) is the most widely used treatment for moderate and severe sleep apnea,(1) patients may have two more principal options open to them: oral appliances and - sometimes - surgery.
After being diagnosed with sleep apnea and having identified the cause of it, a healthcare professional will prescribe a treatment. All treatments for sleep apnea are designed to keep the airway open when sleeping. Even if CPAP is the standard treatment(2) for sleep apnea, some people cannot or will not use it. Some judge themselves unsightly with a facemask, will not tolerate it or will abandon it.
WHEN TO CHOOSE ORAL APPLIANCES INSTEAD OF CPAP?
In these cases, or when sleep apnea is mild or moderate in severity, your doctor may suggest oral appliances instead of CPAP. They look like the protection used for contact sports like boxing and by American football players.
Oral appliances work by positioning the lower jaw forward of its usual resting position to leave the throat open in a horizontal position. They are made to match your jaw and can only be used with healthy teeth.
Oral appliances are sometimes enough to avoid breathing pauses even if CPAP ensures that a good volume of air will oxygenate your lungs and your body during the night.(1)
WHAT ABOUT THE SURGERY?
Surgery is another possible treatment for sleep apnea. However, this solution is not routinely recommended because it carries a risk of more serious complications and CPAP remains people’s first choice(2) compared to what is viewed as a radical solution.
IS THERE ANOTHER ALTERNATIVE?
New treatments are still being developed. Electric stimulations, medication, natural therapies… Scientific studies are still needed to prove their effectiveness. No matter what treatment is announced in the future, the most appropriate will always be the one that your healthcare professional suggests for you, depending on your symptoms, health risks and personal lifestyle.
The more you talk to your doctor, the better the life-changing treatment!
(1) OSA Treatment Options, Associació Nord-americana d’Apnea del Son (American Sleep Apnea Association, ASAA), http://www.sleepapnea.org/treat/treatment-options.html, consultat el 27/07/2015
(2) Clinical Guidelines for the Manual Titration of Positive Airway Pressure in Patients with Obstructive Sleep Apnea, Positive Airway Pressure Titration Task Force of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, Vol. 4, No. 2, 2008