Snoring Can Indicate a Serious Condition
If you snore, it’s likely you are familiar with the nightly jabs in the ribs, grumbling from your bed partner, and maybe even separate bedrooms. Snoring happens when air cannot flow freely through the passage in your throat. As you probably know, the resulting rasps and rattles and disrupt the sleep of those around you. What you may not know, however, is that snoring can disrupt your own sleep and may be a sign of a serious condition called sleep apnea.
Signs and Signals
When a person has sleep apnea, the throat becomes blocked at night, stopping breathing for short periods of time. If you have sleep apnea, your partner may hear you alternate between snoring very loudly and being very quiet. You may not even gasp or snort in your sleep. Other symptoms of sleep apnea include
- Waking up tired, even after a full night’s sleep,
- Waking up with a headache,
- Feeling very sleepy or falling asleep at inappropriate times (for instance, at work or while driving),
- Irritability and short temperedness,
- Problems with concentration or memory.
Nose problems make things worse and may even cause snoring or sleep apnea. If the dividing wall in your nose is crooked (a deviated septum) or if you have allergies or polyps, the airflow can be blocked and contribute to the obstruction.
Not only can sleep apnea leave you constantly tired, but it is also associated with health problems such as high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke.
Your physician can help. Snoring and sleep apnea rarely go away on their own, but they are treatable. Your physician can evaluate you and recommend a treatment plan to help you sleep quietly and breathe freely. This plan may include changes that you make yourself, medical devices, or surgery that your physician prescribes.
Every Breath You Take
Breathing often seems like the easiest thing in the world. Most of the time, you don’t even think about it. However, if you have ever had a stuffy nose, you know the feeling of breathing through a very narrow passageway.
This constriction is what happens in your throat when you snore. While you sleep, structures in your throat partially block your air passage, making it narrow and hard to breathe through. If the entire passage becomes blocked and you can not breathe at all, you have sleep apnea.
When you breathe in, air passes through your nose and throat on its way to your lungs. Your nose warms, filters, and humidifies the air that goes to your lungs. The air travels past soft, flexible structures in the throat, such as the soft palate, uvula, tonsils, and tongue. The soft palate is the tissue at the back of the roof of your mouth. It helps block off your nose when you swallow. The uvula is the long flap of tissue that hangs from the soft palate. Tonsils are the balls of tissue that rest in the sides of your throat. The tongue helps you swallow, talk, and chew.
Whether or not your have sleep apnea, your snoring may get better by making a few simple changes in your sleeping habits. These changes may be all that is necessary to improve or even cure your snoring or sleep apnea. Some of these changes include
- Not sleeping on your back (sleep on either side instead),
- Avoiding alcohol and certain medication that may cause sedation,
- Losing weight,
- Exercising regularly, and
- Unblocking your nose with either medicine or surgery.
Nose problems make things word and may even cause snoring or sleep apnea. If the dividing wall in your nose is crooked (a deviated septum) or if you have allergies or polyps, the airflow can be blocked and contribute to the obstruction.
So if snoring is a problem in your house, you should check with your physician. He or she may be able to help or refer you to a specialist to diagnose why you snore or if you have possibly have sleep apnea. Until then, have a good night’s sleep!
*This article first appeared in Vol. 2, Issue 6 of Highland Clinic Today
The Medtronic Fusion System gives surgeons a picture-perfect view of the sinus.
Picture this scenario – you’re driving on a dark and winding road. You cannot see the road or any signs, but your map indicates that the path ahead is filled with twists and turns. Obstacles mar the road, and the lines have been rubbed away, due to years of use. Besides that, venturing too far over to the edge could result in some dire consequences. Feeling your way is the only alternative. While such a complicated and dangerous driving situation is unlikely to occur, sinus surgeons have been forced for years to navigate sinuses using only their knowledge of anatomy. Sinus surgery once was a complicated task for doctors who had to guide their instruments by feeling their way through he maze of air chambers known as the sinus. Now, a breakthrough in guided sinus surgery, the Medtronic Fusion System, provides surgeons with an inside view of the sinuses that makes surgery safer and reduces complications.
More than 30 million Americans suffer from sinus disease, experiencing symptoms such as facial pain or a feeling of fullness in the face, difficulty breathing through the nose, a persistent bad smell in the nose, post nasal discharge and headaches. While many of these sinus problems can be successfully treated with antibiotics or other medications, about 400,000 sinus surgeries are still necessary each year. Doctors recommend sinus surgery for people who have an infection or inflammation that will not respond to treatment with antibiotics or if the infection repeatedly returns after the course of antibiotics is completed. For many, endoscopic sinus surgery allows a more accurate removal of diseased tissues as well as less removal of normal tissues. Often, this surgery can be performed on an outpatient basis without the necessity of long-term nasal packing. After surgery, two or three follow-up visits are required.
The Highland Clinic and Christus Highland Medical Center have become the first health-care providers in the Shreveport area to utilize a state-of-the-art computer system designed for pinpoint accuracy and to minimize complications during sinus surgery. The Medtronic Fusion System allows the surgeon to see the exact position of his instruments and their movements through the sinuses on a video screen. Dr. J. William Parker, Jr., M.D., FACS, brought the breakthrough Medtronic Fusion technology to the Highland Clinic and Christus Highland Medical Center after exploring many different systems. He says that 97 percent of the ENTs in the worldwide market choose this system. “Surgical navigation has been used in other surgical disciplines for years. The technology has just now become available in the ENT community,” he explains.
January 18, 2001 was a landmark day for otolaryngologist Dr. Parker as he performed surgery using their new Medtronic Fusion System for the first time. Using CT scans made prior to the procedure plus a specialized headset placed on the patient, the new system produces a three-dimensional computerized model of the patient’s skull. The CT scans are positioned and synchronized to perfectly match the anatomy of each patient’s skull.
The Medtronic Fusion System is a momentous breakthrough. In many cases sinus disease surrounds the eye and lies up against the brain.
-Dr. J. William Parker
In the operating room, the computer surgeon displays four views for the surgeon – the video view from the endoscopic instrument actually in the skull as well as the axial, sagittal, and coronal views of the skull. The precise location of the doctor’s instruments in these areas is indicated by cross hairs on the screen to ensure accuracy. The endoscope performs as a miniature telescope to illuminate the surgeon’s view of the sinuses and provides a detailed view of the immediate surface area. “It’s like a GPS in your head,” explains Dr. Parker and adds that the system gives both the patient and the doctor confidence and a safety mechanism for difficult or revision cases. Many patients face the possibility of additional procedures no matter how well the preceding surgery was done, simply because of the nature of the ailments. “After the second time, you begin to lose your landmarks,” notes Parker, due to scar tissue and the condition of the sinus tissue.
The Medtronic Fusion System is a momentous breakthrough. “In many cases sinus disease surrounds the eye and lies up against the brain,” says Parker. “This system makes the surgery much safer.” The system allows the doctor to work more thoroughly and closer to the edge of the sinuses to remove as much as the diseased tissue as possible. Also, the system reduces time for certain sinus procedures by as much as 25 percent.
Although this new type of equipment is still considered optional, Parker feels that it will quickly become the gold standard. The majority of leading medical schools are using the technology to train future ENT surgeons. As training centers train residents to use this system, it will become more prevalent in sinus surgeries.
Parker notes that Medtronic Fusion increases precision. “It shows both my instrument and where it is in the sinus,” Parker says. “You can get lost in there if you can’t see anything. This is the best way to have an operation on your sinuses.”
For more information or to find out if you are a candidate for Medtronic Fusion, call (318) 798-4500.
*This article first appeared in Vol. 1, Issue 1 of Highland Clinic Today