Dr Lynne Lim is one of the top ENT specialists residing in Singapore, with over 20 years of accredited ENT experience. She is currently Senior Consultant Ear Nose Throat – Head & Neck Surgeon at her private practice at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre and Farrer Park Medical Centre. She continues as Adjunct Associate Professor to the School of Medicine at National University Singapore for research and teaching, and is Visiting Consultant to the clinical ENT Department at National University Hospital.
Do you have problems sleeping through the night? Loud snoring, constantly feeling tired, waking up with a dry mouth; if these symptoms sound familiar to you, you might be suffering from sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a potentially serious disorder where a person's breathing is constantly interrupted during sleep. People with untreated sleep apnea stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep, sometimes hundreds of times.
Dr Lynne answered questions from readers on:
- Effects of sleep apnea
- Causes of sleep apnea
- Can you leave sleep apnea untreated?
- Treatment options for sleep apnea in Singapore
People get sleep apnea if a block in the airway passage results in significant oxygen desaturation in sleep. In sleep apnea, there is reduced oxygen in the blood from obstruction or collapse of the nose-oral-pharyngeal- laryngeal airway.
The most common causes in children are allergic rhinitis, adenoid and tonsils enlargement
Snoring is not just noise. Not all who snore have sleep apnea, but snoring is a sign that you may have sleep apnea. In Singapore, a recent study found that 90% of those with already moderate to severe sleep apnea did not know that they had sleep apnea!
Sleep apnea happens when there is a block in the airway that results in significant oxygen desaturation in the blood. To differentiate snoring from sleep apnea, a definitive sleep study is needed.
In sleep apnea, there is reduced oxygen in the blood from obstruction or collapse of the nose-oral-pharyngeal- laryngeal airway in sleep. This reduced oxygenation leads to highly significant long term side effects, and can be thought of as a silent killer really. No one pays much attention to it till it is late or too late, as it seems like just harmless snoring.
Losing weight will help to control sleep apnea if the patient is overweight. As it is a lifestyle and dietary change, the patient should always use it first line and it is also good for general health. It cannot completely cure sleep apnea if there are other causes of sleep apnea.
Please refer to my reply on “How to treat sleep apnea without CPAP or surgery?” for conservative first line measures to treat sleep apnea. Additionally, surgical measures may be needed when these conservative modalities do not suffice, or if the patient cannot tolerate the CPAP mask or prefer a surgical option.
Non-invasive, non-CPAP treatments are only considered for occasional or mild OSA, and if these are relevant:
- Your mom should avoid alcohol and smoking if there is the off chance she is on them.
- Your mom can try a change of sleep position to sleep on her side instead of on her back if there is no discomfort.
- If she is overweight, losing help can help. If there is a nose block from allergy or infection, medications, nasal rinses and allergen control may help.
Here are some cost estimates for sleep apnea treatment in Singapore:
The initial cost would be the consultation (from $150) and possibly a flexible nasoendoscopy cost (from $250) to determine the levels of obstruction and medical issues that need to be managed holistically.
That is a tough question! “The best ENT doctor” would depend on what the patient specifically needs, prefers and feels comfortable with. Some patients do not get to choose outside their insurance panels.
Thus, there will not be one doctor who is best for everyone.
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