Do you feel tired during the day despite sleeping 7-8 hours per night? Does your spouse complain about your snoring, or note that you “stop breathing” while sleeping? It is possible that you may suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
OSA, considered one of the most common sleep disorders in the US, is caused by complete or partial obstruction of the upper airway. After falling asleep, the muscles in the roof of the mouth (palate), tongue, and throat begin to relax and collapse. This can result in repetitive episodes of shallow or paused breathing while sleeping. Such episodes are called “apneas”, and can cause a patient’s oxygen levels to decrease. Common symptoms of OSA include heavy snoring, excessive daytime sleepiness, gasping while asleep, frequent awakening, and/or trouble sleeping. OSA is an important condition to recognize and diagnose; if untreated, OSA can increase the risk for cardiac and pulmonary-related disease (hypertension and heart disease).
The first step in getting evaluated for OSA is to see an otolaryngologist, who can perform a complete head and neck examination to identify anatomical risk factors for OSA. In many cases, the next appropriate test would be a sleep study, or polysomnogram. A sleep study typically consists of spending a night in the hospital while the patient’s sleep habits are recorded. In some situations, it is also possible to have an at-home sleep study, although the results underestimate the degree of sleep disturbance. Pending the results, some patients may be considered candidates for continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP. CPAP is a small device that has a mask attached to it which improves patient breathing at night. If no OSA is present, conservative measures are usually recommended. This includes exercise and weight loss, avoid sleeping in the supine position (laying on back), and avoid sedatives and stimulants (alcohol and coffee) before bedtime.
If you or family members have concerns regarding obstructive sleep apnea, please do not hesitate to contact Colden and Seymour Ear, Nose, Throat, and Allergy to set up an appointment. Opinions expressed here are those of Daryl Colden, MD, FACS, and Christopher Jayne, BA. These opinions are not a substitute for a medical evaluation performed by a medical provider.
Earwax, also known as cerumen, is the brownish-yellow substance that accumulates in the outer ear canal. Produced by small glands in the ear, cerumen has protective, lubricating and antimicrobial properties. When present in moderation, cerumen is considered healthy for the ear. The ear is considered “self-cleaning”, meaning the ear canal slowly pushes cerumen out of the ear on its own. Old cerumen is constantly being moved, assisted by chewing and jaw motion. Once it reaches the exterior ear, the wax dries up and flakes out.
Cerumen is only formed in the outer third of the ear canal, not the deeper portion close to the eardrum (tympanic membrane). Therefore it is imperative for patients to avoid sticking fingers or objects (especially Q-tips!) into the ear canal. By doing so, patients may accidentally push cerumen towards the back of the ear, further impacting it. This condition is called cerumen impaction, and sometimes causes hearing loss, blocked ears, ear pain, itching, ringing, or sensation of fullness.
If you or a family member is experiencing any of these symptoms it is important to be seen by an Ear, Nose, and Throat physician (otolaryngologist) for a routine examine. Cerumen impaction can diagnosed by visualizing the ear canal with a tiny microscopy (otoscope). A variety of quick and painless methods in-office can be used to remove cerumen; including use of suction (a tiny vacuum cleaner), forceps, or curette. On many occasions special ear drops are used to soften the wax, making it easier to remove.
There are no proven ways to prevent cerumen buildup in the ears, but not inserting Q-tips or other objects is strongly recommended to avoid impaction. Over the counter ear drops such as Debrox, or hydrogen peroxide can be helpful to prevent excessive cerumen from developing in the ear canal. Patients who are prone to recurrent cerumen impaction should see an Ear, Nose, and Throat physician (otolaryngologist) every 6-12 months for routine cleaning and examination.
If you or family members have concerns regarding cerumen impaction, please do not hesitate to contact Colden & Seymour Ear, Nose, Throat, and Allergy to schedule an examination. Opinions expressed here are those of Daryl Colden, MD, FACS and Christopher Jayne, BA. They are not substituted for the advice of your personal physician.