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Will losing weight cure my sleep apnea?


This is probably one of the first questions I am asked by many of my patients that are recently diagnosed- Does sleep apnea go away if I lose some weight?

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when any part of the airway becomes obstructed or blocked during sleep and disrupts breathing. In many cases, it is caused by an abnormality in a persons anatomy. A great example would be a deviated nasal septum or enlarged turbinates in the nose may disrupt airflow. In our dental chairs, we often see a floppy soft palate (which can often cause a gag reflex) , big tonsils/ adenoids, or a large scalloped tongue that block the passage at the throat. Even the lining of the airway itself can cause an obstruction.

The most common symptom my patients have is chronic snoring. Snoring leads to vibration of the airway and swelling along the passage causing the airway to narrow it even further. Over time, nerve receptors become weakened and less responsive causing the muscles to become more vulnerable in tone. These weak muscles collapse into the airway resulting in Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Unfortunately, muscle tone is also lost with aging, and without counteracting these effects, this unavoidably leads to a worsening of sleep apnea. That is why we see a rise in sleep apnea in older women during menopause that begin experience symptoms of OSA.

Also, if you are over weight fatty tissue can line the airway, contributing to the narrowing and risk for airway collapse. Weight loss will most definitely lower your risk of developing OSA. If you have sleep apnea, weight gain, especially around the neck, will complicate your condition.

Weight loss may help reduce the severity of sleep apnea but for the most part, sleep apnea is a chronic condition that does not go away. For most patients, it is caused by an anatomical abnormality that causes an obstruction in the airway. Unfortunately, anatomy does not change unless it is with surgery.

Children with sleep apnea may maintain hope for the condition has it can be definitively treated and will less invasive at a younger age. We recommend an ENT evaluation for our younger patients. The removal of tonsils and adenoids is very advantageous in children. The expansion of the hard palate with an orthodontic therapy called rapid maxillary expansion may also prove helpful. For adults surgical options are available, but involves major surgery and recovery can typically take several weeks or months.

Although sleep apnea may not be avoidable in most circumstances, the good news is that there remains an effective treatment: Oral Appliance Therapy. It is non-invasive treatment option geared for patients that have mild to moderate sleep apnea. It is also a great alternative for severe sleep apnea sufferers who do not tolerate their CPAP. OAT positions the lower jaw in a forward position to preventing obstruction and keeping the airway open.

If you have further questions about the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea, you can speak with your sleep specialists . We are here to help, Transform Your Sleep and Redefine your health!

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