Sleep Apnea and Obstructed Airways

Obstructed airways can cause a host of problems during sleep. Not only will it cause snoring and pauses in breathing, but it will also cause other health issues and daytime symptoms. Excessive drowsiness during the day, weight gain, and anxiety are just a few examples of what can happen if you don’t get treatment for sleep apnea. But, what causes obstructive sleep apnea in the first place? How do airways become obstructed? Keep reading to learn more about sleep apnea, how airways become obstructed, and how you can get sleep apnea treatment to start feeling better as soon as possible.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a problem in which your breathing pauses during sleep. This occurs because of narrowed or blocked airways. When you sleep, all of the muscles in your body become more relaxed. This includes the muscles that help keep your throat open so air can flow into your lungs.

Normally, your throat remains open enough during sleep to let air pass by. Some people have a narrow throat. When the muscles in their upper throat relax during sleep, the tissues close in and block the airway. This stop in breathing is called apnea. Loud snoring is a telltale symptom of OSA. Snoring is caused by air squeezing through the narrowed or blocked airway. Not everyone who snores has sleep apnea, though.

Causes and Risk Factors for Obstructive Sleep Apnea

The airway can become narrowed or blocked due to many causes, including:

  • Allergic reactions in which the trachea or throat swell closed, including allergic reactions to a bee sting, peanuts and tree nuts, antibiotics (such as penicillin), and blood pressure medicines (such as ACE inhibitors)
  • Chemical burns and reactions
  • Epiglottitis (infection of the structure separating the trachea from the esophagus)
  • Fire or burns from breathing in smoke
  • Foreign bodies, such as peanuts and other breathed-in foods, pieces of a balloon, buttons, coins, and small toys
  • Infections of the upper airway area
  • Injury to the upper airway area
  • Peritonsillar abscess (collection of infected material near the tonsils)
  • Poisoning from certain substances, such as strychnine
  • Retropharyngeal abscess (collection of infected material in the back of the airway)
  • Severe asthma attack
  • Throat cancer
  • Tracheomalacia (weakness of the cartilage that supports the trachea)
  • Vocal cord problems
  • Passing out or being unconscious

Treatment for Sleep Apnea

Ready to get treatment for sleep apnea and start getting a more restful, restorative night’s sleep? Advanced Sleep and TMJ Solutions is here for you to give you a custom, individualized solution to your sleep issues.

Dr. Connor has been improving the lives of patients as the owner of Hypnos Inc. in Brookfield, WI. She is a diplomate of the American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine and the American Sleep and Breathing Academy.

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