Before getting to the news about the new device, there are a few things that need to be understood about the condition. This includes what it is and the current treatment options.
What is sleep apnea? The division of the word apnea is a, meaning without and pnea, meaning breathing. In other words, people with this disorder stop breathing in their sleep. This is serious and needs treatment.
What causes it? There are many possible causes. Anything that restricts the airways while sleeping is the main cause. Relaxation of the tongue and inflammation of the tonsils are two common causes.
What are the symptoms: One is something the patient may not recognize but anyone nearby can. Snoring is often a symptom of sleep apnea. The cycle works like this: the patient stops breathing. After a few seconds the lack of oxygen partially awakens the patient so that a voluntary breath is taken. This is usually loud and gasping. Due to the constriction, the exhaled are comes out as snore attached to a gasp.
What the patient will notice is that deep sleep is impossible, it feels like he or she has been awake all night (or may actually *have* been awake all night) and that he or she doesn’t feel rested on waking up. It’s hard for the patient to focus during the day, due to the lack of adequate deep sleep.
Current solutions: There are several, depending on the cause. A tonsillectomy may be performed. Cryogenic widening of the back of the mouth/throat may help. A CPAP machine (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) can help keep everything in place and the throat open. There are also splints.
The problem is sometimes none of these treatments work. That leaves the patient open to heart disease and strokes as well as accidents caused by lack of sleep.
The New Device: This device is an implant similar to a pacemaker. It provides an electronic “zap” to the relaxed tongue and throat muscles, keeping them open. It can be controlled via a remote so that you’re not getting zapped while awake and trying to do other things.
If you think you have sleep apnea, talk to your doctor. A sleep study will be done to analyze the problem and its severity. Once that is done, your doctor will talk to you about the options available and which one is the best fit for you and your case.