Sleep Apnea. Is Your Nose Effecting More Than Just Your Beauty Sleep?

It’s Not All About Aesthetics

Size, contour and overall appearance of the nose have been aesthetic focuses literally down through the ages. A person, regardless of gender, often either loves or hates their nose. However, apart from it being the central aesthetic component of our face, the nose can also be at the core of numerous health issues. For example, do you know anyone diagnosed with migraine, chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia? Then there are the sleep issues -mouth breathing, sleep apnea and snoring. Sufferers have likely made visit after visit to numerous specialists only to become frustrated by a host of treatments, with no appreciable improvement.  Well, you may need look no further than your nose.

Multiple Myths

It is generally accepted that men (usually older) are the epicenter of sleep apnea and snoring disorders. A misnomer to be sure, this belief tends to divert from a more  scrupulous diagnosis of sleep disorders in the ladies. Not to diminish the discomfort men experience, but snoring in females can be just the tip of the iceberg. The expression of snoring and sleep apnea can go much farther. Nasal congestion, headache, fatigue and a host of other symptoms, often lead doctors to a default diagnosis of migraine, chronic fatigue, or fibromyalgia and sinusitis. The possibility of sleep apnea is too frequently overlooked. For the patient, this can mean expensive and even extraordinary treatments with no success.

So, If It Is Sleep Apnea, What’s at the Root of It?  

Sleep apnea, for many, has two primary culprits; deviated septum and nostril or nasal valve collapse. These are deformities or irregularities in the structure of the nose that can be congenital, or a result of injury or trauma.

The septum is the wall in the nostrils that separates the left and right sides of our nasal passages. The center part is made from bone and cartilage. There is mucous membrane lining over the entire septum on either side.

The septum channels the air through our nostrils directly to the back of the nose and into our lungs. As you can imagine, it is best when the septum is as straight as possible. While most people have some irregularity to their septum, beyond a certain extent, the airways can become blocked.

Nostril collapse is often a characteristic of people with small or poorly structured noses. They are forced to breath through their mouth during sleep and exercise. Mouth breathing causes dry mouth and tongue collapse during sleep. The collapse, in turn, causes headaches and fatigue from reduced brain oxygenation. Even the ever-mysterious sinusitis may be attributable to this same trigger. Over-the-counter remedies like breathing strips can, in some cases, bring relief. However, the functional treatment is nasal repair and/or CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure).

And Then There’s Weight Gain and Menopause

Sleep apnea can cause mouth breathing and a host of other health issues.

Mouth breathing can also accompany weight gain. This can affect the chin, neck and chest and cause the mouth to jerk open at night, permitting the tongue to collapse into the airway.  Menopause relaxes some of the supportive tissues of the face, neck and chin, decreasing muscle tone, worsening the mouth opening and tongue collapse at night. Yet another effect is more rapid facial aging.

Routinely, medicine tends to fragment conditions associated with sleep apnea into other diagnosis and specialties. Consequently, sleep apnea can masquerade literally as a whole host of other entities from migraine to chronic fatigue syndrome. So from both health and aesthetic perspectives, the nose is really at center stage.

Look beyond the symptoms to the cause

The complexity and wide-ranging influence of the nose is commonly underestimated.  So, it’s important to seek a specialist whose training allows them to go beyond the routine evaluation to identify the underlying cause. Ideally, a thoughtful Ear Nose & Throat (ENT), or a doctor board certified in sleep medicine is best equipped to offer a more insightful diagnosis.  Better still, an otolaryngologist (ENT doctor)/head and neck surgeon, since many of the women who have these conditions can be helped with a functional rhinoplasty and/or weight loss.

Next time you get individual symptoms treated as individual diagnosis by individual specialists, remember that there may be one cause underlying it all; your nose.

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