What causes Snoring?
Snoring is usually caused by flexible tissues in the throat which vibrate as a person breathes at night, causing the production of a noise. One part of the throat which commonly causes snoring sounds is the soft palate (the back part of the roof of the mouth). Other structures that can cause snoring are the tongue, tonsils, adenoids, and even problems with the nose can cause or aggravate the problem. Excess weight, alcohol intake, or smoking can also worsen snoring.
Why is Snoring a concern?
In some instances, snoring is simply an inconvenience for the sleeping partner. In other cases, the sleeping partner finds it impossible to get quality sleep due to the snoring. Sometimes snoring may be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea. This is a potentially serious medical disorder in which the snorer stops breathing repeatedly throughout the night and may have significant drops in oxygen levels of the blood. When this condition is present for months and years, it can place significant strain on the heart and lungs and affect the overall health of the patient, potentially shortening his or her life in the long run.
How is a patient with Snoring evaluated?
The evaluation begins with a careful history and examination of the airway by the ENT physician. Some patients will require a detailed study of their sleep patterns in a Sleep Laboratory. This is called a sleep study. Once the cause or causes for the snoring have been identified, treatment options are discussed.
How is Snoring treated?
Non-surgical treatments of snoring include weight loss and avoidance of sedatives and alcohol, particularly in the evening. Some patients consider a bite splint worn in the mouth to reposition the jaw during sleep.
Surgical options may also be considered. In patients with clear airway obstruction, such as large tonsils or significant nasal airway obstruction, surgery can be directed specifically at these areas. If there is not a significant airway obstruction on evaluation, then the most likely site of production of the snoring noise is the soft palate.
The treatments for snoring have been directed at the soft palate for some time now with good success. Recently, a laser procedure has been used to reduce the size of the soft palate and reduce or completely eliminate snoring; however, this procedure has been complicated by significant pain during the recovery period.
Call Eastern Carolina ENT Head & Neck Surgery at 252-752-5227 for more information or to schedule an appointment.