Study Finds Another Treatment for Sleep Apnea

Managment of sleeping apnea, man with CPAP machineA new study has found that patients who still suffer the effects of sleep apnea because they cannot wear a breathing mask all night may have other options. The research review states that using a jaw support could be just as effective as the masks.

Millions of people around the world rely on breathing masks to keep their airways open throughout the night and ease the effects of the sleep disorder. Sleep apnea is an incredibly common condition in which a patient suffers from breathing issues as they sleep. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines are often used to hold the airway open with air so that it cannot close while the patient sleeps.

CPAP is very effective and completely safe to use, which is why it is usually a doctor’s first choice in treatments. However, many patients simply cannot deal with wearing a mask over their face for the entire night. Mandibular advancement devices (MAD) are a newer treatment that pushes the lower jaw bone out and makes the airway less likely to collapse.

A recent study looked at just how effective this treatment was, using data from 67 other studies with 6,900 patients. They found that while CPAP led to less daytime sleepiness than MAD, both were effective enough that a doctor could leave the choice to patient preference.

“Most doctors still consider CPAP as first-line treatment for patients with obstructive sleep apnea,” said senior study author Dr. Malcolm Kohler, who is the chair of respiratory medicine at the University Hospital of Zurich in Switzerland. “If a patient cannot really use CPAP adequately e.g. only two to three hours per night, but does fine with a MAD which he can tolerate for seven hours a night, then he should be treated with a MAD.”

The researchers judged the previous studies by analyzing the treatments based upon a standard point scale called the Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS). A higher ESS score means greater sleepiness during the day, and that score was calculated by a survey of questions.

Americans in general are sleep-deprived, said Shilpa Kauta, M.D., director of a Sleep Disorders Center. Though we are more aware of the consequences of not sleeping well, many sleep disorders go undetected.

The National Institutes of Health report that up to 70 million Americans have a sleep disorder of some kind, with sleep apnea being one of the most common. Leaving this untreated often leads to other health issues, including high blood pressure, diabetes and risk for stroke and heart failure, to name a few.

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