Treating Sleep Apnea

Florence Cardinal Health Guide
  • Sleep apnea is a disorder that causes the cessation of breathing many times during the night. That is, someone suffering from sleep apnea will periodically gasp or momentarily stop breathing during the night. This, in turn, causes sleep deprivation and puts a strain on the entire body. Sleep apnea can lead to heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, sexual dysfunction, severe depression and falling asleep at work or while driving.


    So far, the only methods of treatment have been CPAP and surgery. However, research by BTG (LSE: BGC), the life sciences company, has clinical proof that a new medication may prove beneficial to people suffering from mild to severe obstructive sleep apnea.

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    The pill, known so far only as BGC20-0166, is a blend of two existing medications that have proved to affect two areas of the brain, linked in differing ways to sleep and breathing.


    Test results using the pill, the two medications that make up this new pill, and a placebo, showed that BGC20-0166 reduced OSA symptoms by an average of 40%, and in cases, 50%. More research is needed to find out just what role this new drug will play in the treatment of sleep apnea, so, for now, CPAP will remain the first choice in treating sleep apnea.


    What is CPAP?
    CPAP consists of a special mask that fits over the nose and mouth and forces air through the passages or blows the airways open. The mask is attached to a small air pump that regulates the amount of pressure used. The pressure should be set to the best level by a sleep specialist while the patient is asleep. The patient should never attempt to set this pressure himself.

    CPAP is very beneficial in the treatment of sleep apnea. However, there are several disadvantages to using CPAP.


    • Irritation to the throat and nose. 
    • Sinus problems. 
    • Masks that don't fit properly. 
    • Noise of the machine.


    Surgerical Treatments for Sleep Apnea

    There are several surgical procedures that may ease sleep apnea.

    • Removing enlarged Tonsils and Adenoids
      If the tonsils and adenoids are unusually large, or if they become inflamed, they may block the air passage and need to be removed..
    • Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP)
      The uvula is the fleshy lobe in the middle of the back of the soft palate. This fleshy lobe is sometimes abnormally long and can cause breathing problems and need to be trimmed or reshaped.
    • Laser assisted Uvulopalatoplasty (LAUP)
      This is the UPPP procedure done using the laser. It can be done using a local anesthetic and often involves several treatments in the doctor's office or an outpatient clinic.
    • Somnoplasty
      Somnoplasty is treatment of the soft palate using radio frequency energy.
      Mandibular Maxillary Osteotomy
    • Maxillofacial surgery is done on the soft palate or the base of the tongue to remove obstructions that have not responded to CPAP or UPPP. Mandibular Maxillary Osteotomy advances both jaws.

    Non-Surgical Methods for Treating Sleap Apnea


    Another method of treatment is changing the lifestyle. This includes losing weight, exercise, watching the diet and sticking to good sleep hygiene and is an excellent choice, no matter what other method of apnea treatment you choose.

Published On: April 15, 2008