Snoring is often underestimated and considered mainly to be a problem for everybody else but the person that snores. Meanwhile, if left untreated, it can cause sleep apnea, or temporary loss of breathing. According to statistics about 54% of Polish people snore, so the problem concerns every other one of us. How to deal with it? We asked an ENT doctor Grzegorz Jamro to bring us closer to this subject.
Why are we snoring?
GJ: The problem of snoring results from an abnormal airflow through the air passages. It may have its origin in both the nose and throat, ending on the lower throat and larynx. Specific sounds in the most common cases are the result of the vibrations of the flaccid soft palate, which occurs during respiration. Parts of the throat walls collapse and put tissue into motion, resulting in snoring.
Are there any people who are particularly vulnerable to snoring?
GJ: Statistically, men snore more often than women. There are many reasons why: First of all, the different anatomical structure of the upper respiratory tract, but also the propensity for stimulants and lifestyle. When it comes to comparing adults and children, of course the breathing problems in both groups are different. In children, we deal mainly with the hypertrophy of the lymphatic system of the throat, while in adults a greater role is played by sagging or overgrowth of soft tissues of the palate, tongue or throat.
Is it possible to protect ourself from snoring in some way?
GJ: No. Changes in the anatomy of the air passages can occur regardless of our hygiene and lifestyle. Often it is a natural overgrowth of tissues with age, or flaccidity caused by a decrease of collagen in the tissues.
Can snoring be dangerous to health?
GJ: Yes. The next stage of snoring is the development of sleep apnea, the moment when the patient temporarily stops breathing. The consequence of Steep Apnea Syndrome may be a number of diseases of the cardiovascular system, an increased risk of stroke, or the development of diabetes.
At what moment should we recognize that the snoring sound made while sleeping is dangerous to health?
GJ: When the previously mentioned sleep apnea arise, that is a temporary breath hold during sleep.
Is snoring a characteristic sound?
GJ: Definitely yes. It can change in tone, depending on how our respiratory tract looks and where the problem of snoring arises. Any additional acoustic effects like wheezing or breath holding are probably an element of sleep apnea that would require diagnosis by a doctor and appropriate treatment.
Who to go to resolve the problem with snoring?
GJ: The problem of snoring is divided between pulmonologists and ENT specialists. Pulmonologists deal with the diagnosis of sleep apnea. Laryngological examinations determine the place of snoring formation, and later deal with surgical treatment of this type of disorders.
How has snoring been treated so far?
GJ: The most basic procedure is cutting throat tissues, removing tonsils or parts of the tongue. It is a very invasive method but usually no longer performed.
What methods are currently used?
GJ: The treatment of snoring depends on its cause. The least invasive, but at the same time the most demanding method of treatment, is treating the sleep apnea with CPAP- breathing pump with positive breathing pressure. The pressure generated by the device does not allow the respiratory tract to collapse during sleep. Laryngological tests, on the other hand, allow to assess where the problem potentially arises – from the nose, palate, throat to the level of the larynx. If the curvature of the nasal septum was found, the correction of this part will be the first priority. If we have a problem with snoring due to the collapse of flaccid soft palate tissues, we will start by expanding or stiffening of this place. Going to the further parts of the respiratory system, i.e. tongue or throat, the situation is similar, although in the lower throat and larynx we do not have too many options. The treatment focuses primarily on the tissues of the palate and tongue. By now, surgical methods were based on large incisions or even removal of palatine tonsils. These methods have evolved to less invasive techniques like for example electrocoagulation or laser therapy that allows to cure snoring in non-invasive and safe way.
What is the laser treatment?
GJ: A lot of lasers are used in medicine. Each of them has a slightly different mode of action and interacts differently with tissues. We can talk about more or less invasive methods depending on which laser we use. In the Beauty Group clinic we have the opportunity to use the most modern FOTONA system, which consists of erbium-jag and neodymium-jag laser. By appropriate selection parameters of both lasers we can use them in many ways. In the treatment of snoring, we mainly use erbium-jag laser, as a completely non-invasive method of treatment, which consists of photothermal shrinkage and stimulation of collagen development in the tissues of the palate and tongue. NightLase is a laser treatment with a delicate, surface effect.
How many treatments do you need to achieve the desired outcome?
GJ: The optimal amount of treatments recommended by FOTONA is four appointments, each one lasts about 20 minutes.
Is any special preparation required for the procedure? Are there any recommendations to be followed during therapy?
GJ: Consultation is required before each laser therapy. Each patient must be individually qualified, however, there are just few contraindications to this treatment that should be considered. No special preparation is required. The patient comes directly to the procedure, and when leaving the office does not feel any pain or discomfort. It is possible to immediately return to the daily activities.
You did mention that we need four sessions of treatment, does the first session bring any significant changes?
GJ: Our previous experiences with FOTONA lasers show that after first treatment patients feel a definite improvement in breathing immediately after leaving the office.
Would you, as an ENT specialist recommend laser therapy?
GJ: Definitely yes. Laser therapy is a non-invasive treatment that I can truly recommend for the sake of the patient. This procedure does not require anesthesia, and research shows that its effectiveness reaches 90%.