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Upper airway tissue obstruction can occur from a deviated nasal septum, which is the cartilage that runs up and down the middle of the nose, or from enlargement or hypertrophy of the turbinates, which are these ridges that occur within the nose. Some patients will have a droopy soft palate, which is the structure in the back of the throat. The uvula is often enlarged. That's the little “punching bag” that occurs in the back of the throat. The tonsils can be enlarged. And the tongue is often enlarged.
When the tongue is enlarged, it may come up very close to the soft palate. The soft palate may droop down nearer the tongue, and you may have very little opening in the upper airway.
From the side view, this structure drops down, like so, creating blockage in your airway. In addition, in patients with an overbite where the lower jaw is set back, the tongue is then pushed into the airway, further compromising the obstruction of the airway. If you have lesions on the vocal cords, they may also obstruct the airway.
Dr. Ronald A. Popper is a Board Certified sleep specialist. The Southern California Pulmonary and Sleep Disorders Medical Center in Thousand Oaks, California, is a four bed, state of the art, fully accredited sleep disorders center. Dr. Popper is available at (805) 557-9930 to answer any questions you have regarding diagnosis and treatment of all sleep disorders, including obstructive sleep apnea, restless limb syndrome, insomnia, narcolepsy, and others.
Watch the video above, and then Click Here to schedule an appointment with Dr. Popper if you feel you exhibit symptoms of sleep apnea.