Sleep apnea and tonsils may be closely linked, and your doctor may look at the connection between breathing disruptions and tonsils. The tonsils are located in the very back of your throat. If swollen or abnormally large, the tonsils can interfere with your ability to breathe, leading to sleep apnea.
The Sleep Apnea and Tonsils Problem
Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when any tissue blocks the airway. The blockage leads to breathing to be cut off for very short periods of time. This occurs during sleep. The brain quickly adjusts the body to open up the airway. In order to adjust the body, the brain must wake you up, just slightly, to make the adjustment. This leads to very poor sleep quality and can lead to numerous health problems.
Obstructive sleep apnea can occur for numerous reasons, but one common reason for it to occur in children is the location and size of the tonsils. Doctors have found that obstructive sleep apnea is now the most common reason for children to have their tonsils and adenoids removed. It can occur in adults as well. When the tonsils or adenoids are swollen, this interferes with health breathing, especially during sleep.
Effect on Children
The effect of sleep apnea and tonsil enlargement often leads to more complications than just the inability to sleep well. Children with this type of breathing problem often experience learning disabilities and behavior problems. They may be more prone to developing hypertension. Some develop attention deficit disorder. In many children, the improvement of breathing ability can reverse some of these complications. If your child wakes frequently at night, or has periods of non-breathing during the sleep, consult a doctor about sleep apnea. In many instances, improvement is possible with the removal of the adenoids and tonsils.
Effect on Adults
Like children, sleep apnea can lead to complications in daily life for adults. The most common effects include poor job performance, poor concentration, poor memory and increased likelihood of accidents. Adults are also more likely to develop hypertension and other health complications due to the poor quality of sleep.
Treatment for Sleep Apnea
Doctors can take action quickly in order to stop the problem when tonsils are to blame for sleep apnea. An Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist may diagnosis the problem first. After an exam of the airways, the ENT may recommend having the tonsils removed.
Your doctor may recommend a sleep study. During the sleep study, doctors will monitor your breathing. Specifically the doctors are looking for instances where you stop breathing for a few seconds. The study can also track the quality of sleep you are experiencing. If you are having trouble completing the sleep cycle, doctors may recommend having your tonsils removed or obtaining other sleep apnea treatments.
- Tonsil Removal: Doctors remove the tonsils and adenoids during this surgical procedure. It is minimally invasive and does not have any lasting, negative effects. After a period of healing, the sleep apnea will no longer be present.
- CPAP Device: In some instances, a CPAP mask can be helpful. The CPAP mask covers the mouth and nose and provides a positive flow of air into the passageway to keep it open. This device improves sleep quality. It is a good option for those without tonsil enlargement, or those with minor to moderate tonsil conditions.
- Treatment of Illness: In some patients, swollen tonsils are the result of an infection. Doctors may prescribe medication to treat the infection, which in turn reduces the size of the tonsils and opens up the airway. Those who have repeated infections may benefit from having their tonsils removed. Fever is an indication of an infection you should report to your doctor.
When it comes to sleep apnea, and tonsils are the cause, it is important to seek medical treatment. Treatment can improve your quality of sleep as well as quality of life if you have symptoms of sleep apnea. Treatment may also help you to avoid complications associated with sleep apnea, such as increased risk for hypertension.