Friday, February 12, 2010

Signs of Sleep Apnea: Soft Palate Length May Aid OSA Screening Process

A study published online recently in the journal Sleep and Breathing found that the length of a person’s soft palate may help sleep specialists detect sleep apnea. The soft palate length as a percentage of the whole airway length may also give clues.

Sleep apnea can occur when the soft palate collapses, preventing airflow during sleep.

The study included 45 Japanese patients. Six women and 19 men had sleep apnea. Eight women and 12 males were controls.

Five of the controls complained of snoring and had a sleep study but did not have sleep apnea. The control participants who did not snore or experience daytime sleepiness did not have a sleep study. All of the sleep apnea patients underwent a sleep study. Each OSA patient experienced at least five arousals per hour.

The researchers used spiral CT scans to image each participant’s airway. They found that soft palate length increases with age in men and is smaller in women, after adjusting for OSA and body mass index (BMI) status.

The results also indicated that patients with OSA had longer soft palates in contrast to the control group, making it a possible tool for OSA screening.

Other common signs of OSA include excess body fat and a neck size larger than 16 inches in women or 17 inches in men. Loud snoring and excessive daytime sleepiness are also warning signs.

If you think you may be at risk for sleep apnea, visit a sleep center.

Many dentists know how to screen for and treat sleep apnea. Find-a-dentist in your area.

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The Official Blog of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM) is intended as an information source only. Content of this blog should not be used for self-diagnosis or treatment, and it is not a substitute for medical care, which should be provided by the appropriate health care professional. If you suspect you have a sleep-related breathing disorder, such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), you should consult your personal physician or visit an AASM-accredited sleep disorders center. The AADSM, and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, as the managing agent of the AADSM, assume no liability for the information contained on the Official Blog of the AADSM or for its use.