Snoring help could be just an ENT doctor’s visit away

By FLT Staff

Do you know someone who snores? Chances are you don’t have to look very far to find someone who does — perhaps just in the mirror. Snoring is quite common. Forty percent of men and 25 percent of women in America snore — but the people occupying the same bedroom as the snorer often pay the higher price. Frequently, habitual snoring pushes bed partners to the point of sleeping separately, which can put a strain on their relationship. Snoring can also be a sign of a more serious health problem. If you or a loved one is a snorer, help could be just an office visit away.

The Toledo Clinic recently formed the Toledo Clinic Snoring Center of Excellence — a unique, multidisciplinary team of medical professionals who work collectively to diagnose the many causes of snoring and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and prescribe a patient-centric treatment program that may involve medication, weight loss, minimally invasive upper airway surgery, a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) device, or a custom-fit oral appliance. Instead of a one-size-fits-all philosophy, the Snoring Center flips the script by customizing a program to benefit every patient.

The Toledo Clinic Snoring Center of Excellence is an amalgamation of the well-respected Toledo Clinic name with the vast experience of nationally recognized medical, dental and surgical specialists. The surgeons of the Toledo Clinic ENT (ear, nose and throat) department, the physicians of the Pulmonology/Sleep Medicine department, and Sylvania dentist Dr. Matthew Lark work together to diagnose and treat the many causes of snoring and OSA.

Snoring and OSA occur when the nose is congested or the muscles in the soft palate, tongue and throat relax, allowing the soft tissues to collapse. Restricted airflow through the nose and mouth causes the congested or sagging tissue to flutter and vibrate due to the excessive pressure required to breathe, which produces the distinctive sound of snoring.

According to Dr. Christopher Perry, co-founding partner of the Toledo Clinic ENT Snoring Center of Excellence, “Several factors can contribute to snoring, such as obesity, nasal inflammation related to allergies or smoking, structural problems like a deviated septum or nasal polyps, alcohol use before bed, enlarged tonsils, or simply a floppy soft palate. In many cases, snoring is more of a nuisance and a source of embarrassment than a true medical problem. However, snoring can be a symptom of a more serious condition, called obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, which is characterized by actual pauses in breathing while sleeping that can cause a drop in oxygen levels. This dangerous scenario can lead to a host of medical problems over time, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, weight gain, stroke, depression, fatigue, attention deficit, memory loss, acid reflux, and on and on. This is why ignoring the symptoms is not an option.”

Co-founding partner Dr. Oliver Jenkins adds, “A snoring problem may be more significant if you wake up at night choking or gasping for breath; you don’t feel refreshed when you wake up in the morning; you’re extremely tired throughout the day; you tend to wake up with headaches; you’re gaining weight; you have trouble concentrating, remembering or paying attention; or your bed partner notices breathing pauses when you’re sleeping. These signs should be considered a call to action to see your doctor or contact us at the Toledo Clinic ENT Snoring Center of Excellence for a consultation.”

Dr. Perry and Dr. Jenkins are experienced surgeons in the treatment of snoring and OSA and have been voted the best ENT doctors in Toledo for the last three years in a row. The doctors provide a thorough endoscopic evaluation of the upper airway to determine whether there is any anatomical cause of snoring. They also offer allergy testing and can even do an in-office sinus CT scan to identify any structural issues related to the nose and sinuses. If obstructive sleep apnea is suspected, they can arrange for the patient to complete a sleep study in the comfort and convenience of their own home. Pulmonary function testing can also be done at the office to rule out asthma.

“In some cases, snoring can be reduced or eliminated through simple lifestyle modifications, such as sleeping on your side, elevating the head of the bed, and avoiding the use of alcohol or smoking. Of course, losing weight often makes a significant difference, as well,” states Dr. Jenkins. If these measures aren’t sufficient, Drs. Perry and Jenkins offer a wide array of medical options or minimally invasive surgical alternatives that can bring relief to both the snorer and his or her bed partner, including allergy treatments to reduce nasal swelling and surgery to remove enlarged tonsils or correct a deviated septum.

The Toledo Clinic ENT Snoring Center of Excellence also offers a cutting-edge in-office treatment called Coblation turbinate reduction, which shrinks the nasal air fins, or turbinates, to open up the nose and improve breathing, snoring, sense of smell, and sleep. “This is done using a thin wand that delivers radiofrequency waves,” Dr. Perry explains. “First, we administer a local anesthetic to numb the nose, much like your dentist does when filling a cavity. Then, the wand is inserted into the turbinate and the radiofrequency waves gently heat up the surrounding tissue, causing it to dissolve and shrink. The procedure takes only about 10 minutes, causes no pain or bleeding, and requires no downtime.”

If vibration of the soft palate is determined to be the cause of a patient’s snoring, Coblation radiofrequency snoring reduction can be performed on the soft palate as well. In this procedure, the radiofrequency waves are used to tighten the muscular layer of the soft palate, which stiffens the tissue and prevents it from vibrating — much the same way tightening the sail on a sailboat prevents the sail from flapping in the wind.

Tackling the often complex diagnosis and treatment of snoring and sleep apnea often requires collaboration between dental and medical specialties, so Dr. Perry and Dr. Jenkins work closely with local dentist and nationally recognized dental sleep medicine expert Dr. Matthew Lark. Dr. Lark, co-founding partner of the Snoring Center, states, “I am excited about the opportunity to help so many patients achieve a restful night’s sleep and a better tomorrow, with treatment designed to address the cause of symptoms, not just the symptoms.”

For patients with OSA caused by a restricted oral airway, Dr. Lark can customize a prescription oral appliance worn at night to reposition the lower jaw and tongue and prevent tissue from blocking the airway. This non-surgical treatment option has helped many patients achieve a cure for troublesome snoring and OSA.

For patients with OSA who are not candidates for an oral appliance, or may or may not have already had surgery, a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) device is prescribed. A CPAP device worn over the nose and mouth at night works to keep the upper airway open during inspiration and expiration to maintain normal oxygen levels during sleep. Dr. Perry and Jenkins collaborate with a Toledo Clinic Pulmonary/Sleep Medicine physician to manage a patient’s use of a CPAP device or optimize lung function. Dr. Daniel Pipoly, Toledo Clinic Pulmonology/Sleep Medicine physician, says, “Many patients with snoring and sleep apnea also have underlying respiratory problems such as asthma or COPD that need to be addressed along with OSA.”

Dr. Perry emphasizes that snoring can usually be successfully treated and should never be allowed to become a source of friction in a relationship. “If you or your bed partner has a snoring problem, there is hope. You don’t have to suffer or resign yourselves to sleeping separately. Whether it’s a matter of lifestyle modification, medical management, or a minimally invasive procedure, there’s a treatment option that will likely work for you.”

If you or a loved one would like to see a specialist at the Toledo Clinic Snoring Center of Excellence, please call 419-724-8368 for a consultation. The Snoring Center is located at 5800 Park Center Court, Toledo, Ohio.