The root causes of sleep apnea are different for each person. However, if you’ve been evaluated by a sleep specialist and are being treated for obstructive sleep apnea, chances are that you have a good idea of what’s to blame for your airway obstruction. For many individuals, the underlying factor has to do with the tongue. Whether you have a large tongue, weak tongue muscles or you sleep on your back – there are many reasons why the tongue could be the primary culprit behind a blocked throat.
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy is typically the first treatment option employed by a doctor once you’re diagnosed with sleep apnea. And due to its non-invasive nature and ability to keep the airway open at night when used as directed, this makes sense. However, CPAP is not for everybody. Many patients are unable to get comfortable with the mask on their face and they are not happy with the additional side effects that may include dry mouth and skin irritation.
If you are not compliant or can’t tolerate the mask and your condition is primarily caused by obstruction from the tongue, there’s another way to treat sleep apnea without CPAP. Rather than using airway pressure to keep the tongue from interfering with your nighttime breathing, this treatment option called base of tongue ablation actually targets the underlying problem with the tongue to provide long-lasting relief from OSA symptoms.
Here’s an overview from Atlanta-based sleep specialist, Dr. Pradeep Sinha, on how ablation of the tongue base works and why it may be a good option for patients looking to treat sleep apnea without CPAP.
What role does the tongue play in obstructive sleep apnea?
It’s important to address how and why the tongue is causing airway obstruction in order to understand how ablation of the tongue can target the problem. With cases of obstructive sleep apnea caused by the tongue, the tongue is essentially falling back into the throat during sleep, closing off the airway so that you cannot breathe properly. Whether you have a large tongue, weak tongue muscles or a narrow airway that’s more easily blocked off, tongue obstruction may arise for several reasons. Sleeping on the back as well as taking sleeping aids or consuming alcohol close to bedtime can all exacerbate the issue, as these factors make it more likely that the tongue will collapse back into the airway. In particular, sleeping aids and alcohol can relax the tongue muscles, compromising your body’s natural defenses against airway obstruction.
How can a tongue procedure treat sleep apnea without CPAP?
Ablation of the tongue is a minimally invasive procedure that can treat sleep apnea without CPAP by effectively shrinking the size and amount of tissue present at the tongue base. The advanced treatment involves the doctor first applying local anesthetic, after which a specialized instrument that delivers gentle radio frequency energy is used to target the tissue at the tongue base. The entire procedure usually takes less than 30 minutes to perform and is done entirely in the comfort and convenience of the doctor’s office.
While the tongue base won’t immediately be smaller in size upon leaving the office, what happens over the course of the following weeks is that the targeted tissue will be reabsorbed into the body due to the small, coagulated lesions formed during the procedure. This process of reabsorption leads to a reduction in the volume of the tongue base. Furthermore, it will provide stabilization of the tongue, making it less likely that the tongue will fall back and block your breathing.
What are the benefits of this procedure over CPAP?
If you are struggling to stay compliant with your CPAP therapy or you simply cannot tolerate wearing the mask and are avoiding using it, ablation of the tongue is an option worth considering.
It offers a number of advantages, including:
- Performed right in the doctor’s office
- Only requires local anesthesia
- Completed in less than one hour
- Minimal post-procedure discomfort
- Only targeted tissue is touched (surrounding tissue is not affected)
- Quick and easy recovery; most patients can resume normal activity and diet within a day or two
- Results seen after just a few weeks
- Effective CPAP alternative providing long-term results
Looking to treat sleep apnea without CPAP? Schedule a consultation today
If you’ve been seen by a sleep specialist and diagnosed with sleep apnea that’s primarily caused by obstruction of the tongue, you are an ideal candidate for ablation of the tongue. So if you’re looking to treat sleep apnea without CPAP, the first step is to schedule a consultation at the Snoring and Sleep Institute of Atlanta. You can do this by filling out the appointment form right on this page or by contacting our office. Don’t let your tongue get in the way of a great night’s sleep. Our minimally invasive treatment option can help you achieve the long-lasting, obstruction-free sleep you deserve.