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Studies have shown that approximately 24% of the local population are loud habitual snorers.
Snoring, due to vibration of tissues in the throat, can be a symptom of partial upper airway obstruction. The partial obstruction can lead to complete airway obstruction – a medical condition called obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA).
OSA is a potentially serious disorder, in which one’s breathing is interrupted during sleep resulting in a drop in oxygen levels in the body. This causes the individual to awaken many times during the night and experience excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS).
Many people snore, but only some snorers have OSA.
Snoring is caused by the vibration of tissues lining the upper air passages. Snoring in most people is due to multiple factors, each playing some part in the snoring process.
Relaxation of muscles causes the walls of the upper airway to fall together and narrow, causing them to vibrate. The tongue may fall back into the throat when sleeping on the back and contribute to snoring.
Nasal blockages due to conditions such as nasal allergies or deformities of the nasal septum (the cartilage partition between the two sides of the nose) can cause poor nasal airflow and mouth breathing, making the situation worse.
A deviated nasal septum, turbinate hypertrophy, large adenoids and tonsils, nasal polyps, long soft palate and a bulky tongue can narrow the airway.
Other factors which can influence the snoring condition are:
Consult your physician if you have loud snoring. Your physician may then refer you to a Sleep Disorders Centre for a thorough evaluation of your problem.
For individuals who snore persistently (night after night), an otolaryngologist will perform a comprehensive clinical evaluation including an endoscopic upper airway evaluation to determine an appropriate treatment plan.
Effective treatment is available for almost all patients. The treatment of snoring requires a multidisciplinary and logical approach, and is divided into medical and surgical options. The therapeutic choice is individualised. A ‘staged’ approach is often used, which involves medical therapy first, followed by consideration of surgery.
Conservative treatment includes eliminating outside factors that may be playing a role in snoring. These include:
Surgical procedures for the treatment of snoring may include nasal, palate, jaw, tongue or neck surgery depending on the location of the tissues contributing to the snoring.
Most treatments are directed at the soft palate (soft tissue at the back of the roof of the mouth) since this is the most common site of snoring. Surgery of the soft palate is effective in 80-90% of cases and can be associated with postoperative pain for 7-10 days.
Certain nasal conditions can cause snoring and require assessment by an ear, nose and throat (ENT) surgeon. Some snorers have excessive tissue such as large tonsils, long palate and bulky tongue. Removal of such excessive tissues will help alleviate snoring.
Types of surgery include:
Radiofrequency thermal ablation of the soft palate and tongue (somnoplasty) is also used to treat snoring. It stiffens and shrinks the tissues of the soft palate and tongue base.