What Is Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is caused by an airway blockage (obstruction) during sleep. During the day, muscles in the airway region keep the throat and airway passage open but when a patient has obstructive sleep apnea, the throat collapses during sleep, blocking the airway and preventing air from getting to the lungs. The site of obstruction in most patients is the soft palate, extending to the region at the base of the tongue.
There are no rigid structures, such as cartilage or bone, in this area to hold the airway open. So as a person with OSA falls asleep, these muscles relax to a point where the airway collapses and becomes obstructed. Although OSA is typically considered an ‘adult’ condition, there is no age boundary and apnea can affect otherwise healthy children. OSA may in fact be the root cause of childhood behavior and attention problems like ADHD. Enlarged tonsils and small structural features of the maxilla/nose, mouth and throat may contribute to childhood OSA. Proper evaluation and testing is needed for an accurate diagnosis.
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