Sleep Apnea Treatment Can Protect Your General Health

Sleep apnea is a serious health condition that can interrupt a patient’s sleep, causing them to experience periods in which their breathing stops, chronic snoring, and effects that include headaches, fatigue, and irritability. It is vitally important to address this sleep disorder as soon as possible so your body can receive the proper amount of oxygen. Sleep apnea treatment can make a significant improvement in your quality of life and even lessen your risk of developing serious health conditions like heart disease. Dr. Chad LaCour offers treatment for patients suffering from sleep apnea at his Baton Rouge, LA, practice.

Obstructive vs. Central Sleep Apnea

Sometimes called OSA, obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type of the disease. It occurs when soft tissues collapse during sleep, resulting in a blockage of the airway.
Illustrations of healthy airway vs. sleep apnea

In patients with OSA, the airway collapses during sleep. 

Central sleep apnea is caused by a lack of signals from the brain which control the muscles responsible for breathing during sleep. This issue requires the attention of a specialist.
Practitioner looking at brain scans

Central sleep apnea is less common than OSA.

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

According to the National Sleep Foundation, over 18 million adults suffer from sleep apnea in the United States. Sleep apnea can cause a wide range of health problems, such as:

  • Stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart attack or heart failure
  • Chronic headaches
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Exacerbate the effects of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • Increase the likelihood of developing arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat
  • Insomnia or extreme fatigue

Many patients become involved in work-related or driving accidents due to an inability to concentrate and daytime sleepiness. 

Risk Factors of Sleep Apnea

Some patients are predisposed to conditions that can cause sleep apnea. Risk factors include:

  • Obesity: When you are overweight, the soft tissues in the throat are more prone to blocking the airway during sleep.
  • Gender: You are more likely to develop sleep apnea if you are male.
  • Age: The risk of developing sleep apnea increases in patients over the age of 40.
  • Genetics: A family history of sleep apnea can increase the risk of developing it.
  • Enlarged tongue or tonsils: These tissues become relaxed during sleep, and can block your airways.
  • Position of oral and maxillofacial structures: When your bite does not fit together properly, there can be a significant negative effect on your breathing. Jaw size, dental alignment, and joint issues can all contribute to the development of sleep apnea.
  • Large neck circumference: If the neck is thicker, it increases the probability of airway collapse during sleep. This is often the result of obesity, although genetics can be a factor.
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease: Studies indicate that GERD may contribute to sleep apnea by causing spasms in the vocal cords.
  • Sinus or nasal problems: Any issue that results in nasal obstruction, such as a deviated septum, can lead to sleep apnea.

Lifestyle Factors and Oral Appliance Therapy

Treatments for sleep apnea vary from simple to complex. Dr. LaCour can work with you to determine what type of treatment will be most beneficial for your situation. For example, if obesity is the contributing cause, losing weight can reduce or eliminate sleep apnea. Some patients notice a decrease in sleep apnea when they are positioned on their side, rather than their back. Positional therapy can be initiated by wearing a device around your back or waist to help you remain in a favorable sleep posture throughout the night.

Dr. LaCour offers simple, comfortable, and convenient treatment in the form of customized oral appliances.

A continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine is the most common treatment for sleep apnea, however, the technique does not enjoy a high rate of patient compliance. This machine uses a steady stream of air, delivered through a mask, to gently keep your airway open while you sleep.

Dr. LaCour prefers a simpler, more comfortable, and convenient treatment option. Much like a mouth guard or retainer, an oral appliance can be fabricated to fit over your teeth while you sleep. This device can help position the tongue and jaw in a more favorable position so proper breathing is restored. Dr. LaCour will take precise impressions and measurements so your customized appliance will provide an optimal fit. 

Schedule a Consultation

If you are suffering from the symptoms of sleep apnea, schedule a visit with Dr. LaCour today. We can refer you to a specialist or sleep lab to confirm a diagnosis, then determine whether oral appliance therapy is right for you. You can reach us online, or call our office at (225) 757-8450.

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Chad A. LaCour, DDS 

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