19 Apr Will sleep apnea go away with weight loss?
Obesity is often co-occurring with sleep apnea, the condition in which patients stop breathing for brief periods repeatedly during sleep. This relationship is likely due to the presence of excess tissue at the rear of the throat, increasing the likelihood of periodic airway opening obstructions throughout the night.
Therefore, weight loss–as little as 10 percent of a patient’s total weight in some cases–can often be an effective strategy to address sleep apnea symptoms. However, if a problem with the structure or positioning of the patient’s jaw or tongue is the true culprit in the apneic episodes, weight loss alone is unlikely to be adequate treatment for eliminating all of the symptoms. If you have lost a significant amount of weight but continue to experience symptoms of sleep apnea, such as daytime drowsiness or frequent sore throats or headaches upon waking, you should consult with an oral surgeon to see if another approach is recommended.
The oral surgeon may suggest a custom-fitted oral appliance to be worn during sleep to hold the jaw or tongue forward in the mouth as to limit the ability of the soft tissues at the back of the throat from collapsing and covering up the airway. A continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) mask is a highly predictable and effective treatment method, although many patients complain that the mask is so cumbersome that they end up discontinuing its use.
In other situations, oral surgery can help to correct the conditions that set the stage for sleep apnea. For example, the surgeon may remove the excess tissue in the vicinity of the airway to eliminate that issue, or the jaw may need to be repositioned surgically.
If obesity is contributing to your sleep apnea, you may get relief from your symptoms with some weight loss. However, some people will find that the problem persists even after they lose weight. When that happens, we encourage you to schedule an evaluation at our office to explore other treatment options.