Serving patients of Erwin, Jonesborough, and Greeneville TN
You may have heard about obstructive sleep apnea, but have you ever heard about upper airway resistance syndrome? Also referred to as UARS, upper airway resistance syndrome is another sleep breathing disorder that is less well-known than sleep apnea but still can be a major cause for concern. Your dentists treating sleep apnea in Greeneville at Tusculum Dental Care want to educate our patients on the potential dangers of UARS.
UARS occurs when there is some sort of resistance located in the upper airway that makes breathing more difficult
Both sleep apnea and UARS typically involve soft tissues blocking the airway. These blockages could emanate from the nasal cavity, soft palate, tongue, pharynx and/or uvula. A patient with UARS experiences breathing difficulties when the soft tissue and muscles of the upper airway relax during sleep. A person with UARS likely already had a narrowed airway, for some reason, but when the muscles and soft tissue of the upper airway relax, the airway becomes even smaller and makes it increasingly difficult for air to flow in and out of the lungs.
Although breathing never completely stops, as is often the case with patients suffering from sleep apnea, the diminished airflow still causes a decrease in oxygen levels significant enough for the brain to arouse the body enough to increase the effort of the respiratory system and resume normal breathing. If you have UARS, you may never wake consciously, but each brief state of arousal—known as a respiratory effort related arousal or RERA—is enough to interrupt the sleep cycle and the healthy and natural patterns of sleep. A RERA refers to any event where an obstruction occurs in the airway that arouses you from sleep, even though it does not meet the objective criteria for sleep apnea.
Many people with UARS never are aware that they have it
This is because RERAs usually are more shallow, and shorter, than the obstructions that occur during sleep apnea. And while snoring is a major warning sign of sleep apnea, many people with UARS do not snore, making it more difficult for a patient’s sleeping partner to recognize there may be a problem.
Because UARS is more difficult to identify, it can be misdiagnosed more frequently than other types of sleep breathing disorders. UARS may be misidentified as depression, a psychiatric disorder, Lyme disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, and even fibromyalgia. Even if many patients with UARS do not snore, there are other symptoms that can typify the disorder—including daytime fatigue, problems with focus or paying attention, frequent headaches, chronic nasal congestion, or teeth grinding.
A sleep study is the best way to identify a case of UARS
A sleep study keeps track of your breathing and other vital signs during sleep. It identifies how often your breathing pauses during the night and counts how often these pauses occur. A patient with UARS experiences pauses that disrupt sleep, but are not significant enough to register as an attack of sleep apnea. If the results of a sleep study indicate that multiple arousals occur with no incidents of sleep apnea, then there is a strong likelihood that UARS is present.
Treating sleep breathing disorders in Greeneville
Whether you have sleep apnea, UARS, or some other variety of sleep breathing disorder, the sleep apnea dentists in Greeneville at Tusculum Dental Care can help. Our dentists Dr. Craig Shepherd and Dr. Nathaniel Renner have the special training to deal with issues related to the airway and provide treatment so that patients get the lasting, restful sleep they have been denied for far too long. Treatment may be as simple as making lifestyle and behavior changes, but the most successful method of treating sleep-breathing disorders entails a course of oral appliance therapy. This involves prescribing the patient with a mandibular advancement device that has been custom-made to fit your mouth as securely and comfortably as possible. When worn, this device positions the lower jaw slightly forward to help maintain a clear and open airway throughout sleep.
If you think you may be suffering from UARS or some other type of sleep breathing disorder, let the dentists at Tusculum Dental Care perform an airway evaluation. Contact our office at (423) 639-7575 to schedule a consultation.
Tusculum Dental Care serves the needs of patients in Greeneville, Jonesborough, and Erwin in Tennessee.