Peter Hibberd, M.D., is a doctor whose advice is based on more than 28 years of hospital outpatient and inpatient experience. He is an experienced emergency medicine physician, surgeon, and consultant. Dr. Hibberd is certified by the American Board of Emergency Medicine. He is also a fellow and active member of the American Academy of Family Physicians, an active member of the American College of Emergency Physicians, and a member and fellow of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine. Dr. Hibberd has earned numerous national and international professional certifications, memberships, and awards.

Treating Sleep Apnea

Monday, 25 July 2011 08:55 AM

Question: I have sleep apnea and use a BiPAP machine. My sleep apnea has gotten better since I lost weight and quit smoking. Can sleep apnea be cured, or am I tied to the BiPAP machine for the remainder of my life?

Dr. Hibberd's Answer:

Most sleep apnea patients will still need nocturnal oxygen supplementation indefinitely unless their weight loss has been extreme and the predisposing condition that caused the sleep apnea has been resolved or corrected.

Remember, the airway obstructs during sleep in sleep apnea, and recurring low oxygen readings for extended periods will leave many with a high risk of heart failure and recurring hypoxic brain damage (similar to multiple small strokes!).

Untreated sleep apnea will lead to premature sudden death, so you are ill-advised to stop the BiPAP (bi-level positive airway pressure) treatments until you have the improvement properly documented. Usually, a repeat sleep evaluation — or at least overnight continuous saturation sampling — will be recommended.

I congratulate you on modifying and possibly correcting your truly life-threatening condition. Smoking cessation WILL certainly improve your cardiovascular risk of heart attack and stroke, both of which are significantly elevated in all sleep apnea patients. Quitting smoking is a very important element in managing sleep apnea.

While some will improve with weight loss, or even with surgical correction, most sleep apnea patients will require BiPAP indefinitely.

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