Air Mask Therapy Best for Sleep Apnea: Experts

New guidelines support the use of pressurized nighttime airflow

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FRIDAY, March 3, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- New practice guidelines issued by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) support a treatment called continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) as the standard of care for adults with moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea.

The new guidelines appear in the March 1 issue of Sleep.

"CPAP is the most effective therapy we have for treating patients with sleep apnea, a disorder that can contribute to the development of hypertension and heart disease. It is immediately effective, relatively noninvasive and usually well-tolerated," Dr. Lawrence J. Epstein, AASM president, said in a prepared statement.

CPAP, which delivers a pressurized airflow through a mask that covers a patient's nose during sleep, prevents pauses in breathing and restores oxygen levels. It also improves self-reported daytime sleepiness in patients with sleep apnea and may improve their quality of life, the guidelines noted.

"Patients often express dramatic improvements in how they feel, often after the first night. They are more alert, have more energy and are able to perform at higher levels for longer periods of time," Epstein said.

The new practice guidelines, based on a review of available scientific literature, suggest that doctors may chose to use CPAP as part of a strategy to lower blood pressure in hypertensive patients with sleep apnea. Doctors may also consider CPAP as a treatment option for patients with a mild form of the disorder, the guidelines say.

An estimated 15 million to 20 million Americans have obstructive sleep apnea, but most of them remain undiagnosed and untreated. Excessive weight is a primary risk factor, and men are twice as likely as women to develop sleep apnea.

More information

The American College of Physicians has more about sleep apnea.

SOURCE: American Academy of Sleep Medicine, news release, Feb. 28, 2006

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