Treatments available for snorers

December 2010

In this blog Mr Paul Tierney, ear nose and throat specialist at Spire Bristol Hospital, talks about problems associated with snoring.

The first thing you should know is you are not alone. More than 40% of men over the age of 40 snore regularly. Indeed many women also snore and it seems to be getting more common. It is a great pity that snoring is dismissed as an insignificant problem as it can indicate underlying pathology, and places many relationships under significant strain.

Snoring is generally caused by vibration of the structures in your upper airway. Some people also suffer from collapse of their airway when they sleep, causing problems with their breathing. This is known as sleep apnoea. This can be associated with daytime sleepiness, impotence and risk of stroke.

The first thing that snorers should do is attempt to lose weight and refrain from alcohol in the evenings as this can help a proportion of people. Anti-snoring dental devices can be worn although compliance with these devices can be very difficult. Sprays and other over the counter treatments including herbal remedies are seldom successful. If snoring persists, or you are getting breath holding attacks or daytime sleepiness, an ear nose and throat (ENT) surgeon with an interest in snoring will be able to evaluate the whole of your upper airway to see if there is a correctable problem within the nose or throat.

If there is an evidence of sleep apnoea an overnight sleep study can be arranged to measure your oxygen levels. If they are low, a special machine can be used to improve your breathing. This uses a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) to keep your airway open but you would need to wear a mask in bed. Modern machines are both quiet and more comfortable and are well tolerated. If your oxygen levels are normal there are a number of potential operations that may help but they are generally not available as NHS procedures.

An ENT surgeon will be able to examine the whole of your airway using a tiny flexible telescope (nasendoscope) to pinpoint the location and cause of your snoring. If you have nasal blockage then the examination will determine if you have nasal polyps or a deviated nasal septum which can be corrected surgically.

Many patients suffer from vibration of the soft palate and uvula (the dangly bit at the back of your throat) causing the heavy snoring. In the past surgery could be used to trim these areas which can be very effective. More modern techniques can utilise small injectable implants to stiffen the palate which are inserted under local anaesthetic and are a cheaper and painless alternative to the older surgical procedures and recent studies have shown improvement rates of up to 80% with this latest technique. The implants can also be combined with other techniques to provide benefit.

To book an appointment with Mr Paul Tierney please call 0117 980 4070

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