Just What is Sleep Apnea, and What Causes it?

A type of sleep apnea called Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a chronic condition that affects one’s breathing and can even make one’s breathing stop. Obesity has a direct relationship with sleep apnea. The fat tissues deposited in the upper respiratory tract restrict the airway leading to OSA.

Typically, sleep apnea happens when respiration stops several times per hour for a duration of about 10 seconds. This health issue can cause a lack of sleep, daytime drowsiness, irritability, and impaired mental/physical functionality. This disorder is accompanied by snoring and gasping while you sleep.

  • OSA happens when the back of the throat collapses and blocks off the airways.
  • It can be caused by neurological conditions where the brain fails to send appropriate signals to the muscles that enable you to breathe.
  • Sleep apnea may be triggered by stomach acid entering the esophagus, which causes spasms in the vocal cords for those who suffer from acid reflux (GERD).
  • Obesity can play a large role in causing OSA due to the body’s excess weight pressing down on the chest and lungs.
  • Sleep apnea can also be associated with metabolic syndrome (a combination of disorders related to obesity, such as diabetes, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, and more).

obstructive sleep apnea - normal breathing during sleep - obesity

How Bariatric Surgery Can Help with Obstructive Sleep Apnea

obstructive sleep apnea, surgeon in scrubs.

Because bariatric surgery has been proven to be an effective tool in achieving long-term weight loss success, it has been shown to improve or even cure OSA in patients. This is because weight loss is a great way to free up the airways and eliminate their obstruction. Bariatrics can remedy many disorders, such as type 2 diabetes and hypertension, two conditions tied to metabolic syndrome.

In 2013, a study published in Obesity Surgery Journal showed that there is, in fact, a large correlation between obesity and the development of OSA. Upon review of whether or not bariatric surgery affects treating OSA, researchers found that it has a profound effect.

Extra Care is Needed when Getting Surgery for Obstructive Sleep Apnea

While there is still less than a 5% chance of complications for those who undergo bariatric surgery that have OSA, it is recommended that candidates be carefully checked and diagnosed prior to surgery. This is because some of the anesthetic agents and narcotics that are used during operation affect the airway, worsening the condition, which can be a risk.

If you suffer from OSA and want to see if bariatric surgery is right for you, consult your primary care physician to ensure appropriate measures are taken before committing to this life-changing tool.

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Bariatric Surgery Gets Rid of Obstructive Sleep Apnea in Teens