We can all relate to the experience of having a night of poor sleep because of a stuffy nose. The uncomfortable feeling that you can’t breathe (and the snoring that often results) can make for a long, unpleasant night for both you and your sleeping partner. This can be even worse when the condition is an ongoing one due to a chronic sinus problem.
In this blog, the board-certified Atlanta ENT doctors at Sinus Center of Atlanta will address what chronic sinus infections are and how there may be a connection between sinusitis and sleep apnea for patients who suffer from both.
What is chronic sinusitis?
Before explaining the relationship between sinusitis and sleep apnea, it’s important to understand what exactly sinusitis is and how it impacts the body. Sinusitis is defined as inflammation of the sinus cavities, the air-filled spaces found between the eyes and behind the forehead, nose and cheeks. In healthy sinuses, a thin mucous layer and tiny hairs called cilia line the surfaces, helping to trap and push out bacteria and pollutants, eventually draining through small openings into the nasal cavity. Healthy sinuses clear their mucus every 10 minutes. When excess mucus production occurs in the sinuses and normal drainage is disrupted, a build up of mucus leading to inflammation and infection is often the end result. A sinus infection, also known as sinusitis, comes with a number of painful symptoms including sinus pressure, headaches, facial pain and fatigue. Sinusitis is considered chronic when a single case lasts six weeks or longer or if you develop separate cases of the condition more than four times in one year.
Aside from frustrating symptoms during waking hours, chronic sinus infections can also impact your sleeping hours too. Next, we’ll look at what obstructive sleep apnea is and address how sinusitis and sleep apnea can sometimes go hand in hand.
What is obstructive sleep apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder tied to breathing. It’s characterized by a cut-off in air supply due to an airway blockage. The symptom that most often prompts a person to seek evaluation for obstructive sleep apnea is chronic snoring, which typically includes gasping or short pauses in breathing during sleep. Over the course of one night’s sleep, a patient with obstructive sleep apnea stops breathing temporarily, which can occur 30 times or more per hour. Obstructive sleep apnea can cause many health-related problems. If left untreated, it may even contribute to a heart attack or stroke.
There are many factors that play into a person’s development of obstructive sleep apnea and sinus and nasal issues are one element.
Why should I seek an evaluation if my sinus issues are causing snoring?
When the sinus cavities have difficulty draining, leading to chronic or recurrent sinusitis, it could be an indication of an underlying anatomical issue. This same issue could be causing your airway to become partially or completely blocked during sleep. In cases where the sinusitis is caused by allergies or a common cold, medication and nasal sprays can often fix the problem. However, conservative treatments rarely improve symptoms if an anatomical issue is the root problem – such as nasal polyps, blocked or narrow sinus openings or a deviated septum.
What are my treatment options for sinusitis and sleep apnea?
The good news is that there are numerous treatment options available that can address both sinusitis and sleep apnea at the same time. At Sinus Center of Atlanta, we offer a number of treatments that are minimally invasive and can be performed right in the doctor’s office, having you back to your normal routine by the following day.
Before any treatment can be recommended, one of our ENT specialists must do an evaluation to determine the underlying cause of your issues. This typically involves using a specialized camera called an endoscope to examine the inside of your nasal passages and sinus cavities, checking for structural abnormalities that may be causing both your sinusitis and sleep apnea airway blockage.
Once the exact cause is known, the doctor can explain the available treatments, which can address your problem. Some of the procedures we offer include:
- Balloon Sinuplasty – a minimally invasive procedure performed in-office using a small balloon catheter to enlarge small sinus openings and promote better drainage
- Polypectomy – a procedure performed to remove enlarged nasal polyps that are blocking sinus drainage and causing nasal obstruction
- Endoscopic sinus surgery – a type of surgery performed using a small camera inserted through the nostril to help guide the careful removal of structural abnormalities; this type of surgery can be used in conjunction with a polypectomy procedure as well
- Septoplasty – a procedure that straightens a deviated nasal septum to improve nasal breathing and prevent the blockage of sinus openings
- Turbinate reduction – a minimally invasive procedure performed using targeted radio frequency energy to shrink the size of enlarged nasal turbinates
Get Treatment for Sinusitis and Sleep Apnea in Atlanta
The Sinus Center of Atlanta is home to ENT specialists who understand the frustrating symptoms created by sinusitis and sleep apnea. Not only do we specialize in treatment for sinus issues, but our ENT doctors are also snoring and sleep apnea experts. In fact, our practice is affiliated with the Atlanta Snoring Institute, which means that our patients have access to the same experienced specialists and advanced treatment options no matter which office location they visit.
The first step to finding relief from sinusitis and sleep-related issues starts with scheduling an appointment. Get started today by filling out our schedule appointment form. In the meantime, you can gauge how your sinus symptoms are impacting your quality of life by taking our simple Sinus Evaluation Quiz.