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CPAP Therapy Most Effective for Sleep Apnea, Experts Say
Date:8/8/2011

MONDAY, Aug. 8 (HealthDay News) -- The most effective treatment for the nighttime breathing disorder known as obstructive sleep apnea is the continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, according to a new report.

A CPAP machine pumps air through a mask while the patient sleeps. This treatment is highly effective in improving sleep and reducing symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea, according to the review of available evidence.

However, side effects such as dry nose and mouth, nosebleeds, chest discomfort and feeling trapped can cause patients to abandon CPAP treatment, noted the authors of the report, which was funded by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

One expert called the report's findings "valuable."

"CPAP is known to be the most effective way to treat sleep apnea, but compliance is a big issue," said Dr. Linda Dahl, an Ear, Nose & Throat specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "It can be uncomfortable and difficult to use. Also, younger patients do not want the stigma of using it. Oral appliances are very helpful for certain types of sleep apnea, but they can be costly and are usually not covered by insurance."

Dahl, who was not involved in the new report, added that "there are also surgical treatments available. They are often not curative, but they do play a role in sleep apnea treatment. For example, if a patient has nasal obstruction and cannot tolerate CPAP, nasal surgery can open the nose so they can tolerate the CPAP mask.

The report also found that one other treatment -- a mouthpiece called a mandibular advancement device -- can be highly effective for sleep apnea patients. The device moves the jaw forward and keeps the airway open.

This treatment is often used if patients can't tolerate the CPAP machine, but potential side effects of the mandibular advancement device include loose or damaged teeth, the report noted.

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