Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome

Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome | UPMC Italy

Snoring, apart from being an annoyance for those who sleep next to us, can be a sign of a disorder that should not be underestimated: obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS).

This is a respiratory disorder due to the collapse of the throat walls, which prevents the passage of air causing a temporary interruption of breathing. In addition to impairing the quality of sleep whose cycle it alters, it leads to changes in oxygen saturation in the blood, with possible changes in heart rate and blood pressure and an increased risk of cardiovascular and neurovascular diseases.

The main symptoms of this disorder are:

  • Dry mouth (xerostomia).
  • Headaches.
  • Cognitive deficits such as memory problems or poor concentration.
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS).
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Frequent awakenings with a feeling of suffocation.
  • Snoring, restless sleep, feeling of not having rested well.

Causes of Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome

It may be thought that they are due to a nasal problem, but snoring (or snoring disease) and sleep apnea can have different origins and causes.

Risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea syndrome include:

  • Alcoholic beverage abuse.
  • Anatomical abnormalities (nasal septum deviation, hypertrophied adenoids and tonsils).
  • Taking sleeping pills.
  • Age.
  • Familiarity.
  • Smoking.
  • Hypertension.
  • Soft tissue laxity of the first airways.
  • Post-menopausal syndrome.
  • Overweight and obesity.

Diagnosis and Treatment

The expert to turn to for a diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea syndrome is an otorhinolaryngologist specialising in sleep disorders.

Based on the patient's medical history and symptoms, the specialist may consider performing an in-depth diagnostic examination, such as polysomnography, considered the gold standard for diagnosing obstructive sleep apnea. It is an examination that records several variables during sleep, such as chest and abdominal movement, brain activity, nasal and oral airflow, blood oxygenation and other physiological measurements. Endoscopy can also be used to assess the anatomy of the upper airway and detect obstructions.

The therapeutic approach for this disorder is often multidisciplinary and may involve a pulmonologist, neurologist, cardiologist, dentist, and nutritionist in cases of obesity. If the apneas depend on an overweight or obese condition, for example, the first intervention may be nutritional.

A common treatment is CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) therapy, in which a mask with continuous air ventilation applied over the nose and/or mouth during sleep keeps the airways open and limits the number of apneas.

Other treatment options include positive airway pressure therapies (e.g. BiPAP), dental devices and positional therapies.

Surgery is an option for patients who do not respond to other treatments or who have specific anatomical abnormalities that can only be corrected surgically.

If you suspect that you have obstructive sleep apnea syndrome, contact the ENT service at UPMC Salvator Mundi International Hospital for an accurate diagnosis and a personalised treatment pathway.