Canadian researchers have discovered a slight side-effect associated with the front-line treatment for sleep apnea. Long-term CPAP use can lead to nearly undetectable changes in facial structure. The changes won’t cause any health problems and the benefits of CPAP for sleep apnea outweigh any concerns, the researchers report.
Investigators at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver used X-rays to examine 46 Japanese patients with obstructive sleep apnea. The average patient had used CPAP for about three years. None said they noticed any facial changes.
The X-rays showed the patients upper and lower jaws were less prominent because of slight shifts in dental arches and incisor teeth. The change was so subtle it couldn’t cause any health concerns.
Extensive research shows CPAP can effectively treat obstructive sleep apnea and eliminate symptoms such as daytime fatigue, cognitive impairment, and erectile dysfunction. Some sleep apnea patients have a hard time getting used to wearing a CPAP mask each night, and may give up on therapy. Sleep apnea is a serious condition that should never be left untreated.
There are effective alternatives to CPAP. A special oral appliance that appears similar to a sports mouth guard helps with moderate sleep apnea. Surgical procedures can also open up the airways and eliminate sleep apnea. Weight loss and change in sleep position may reduce the symptoms of less serious sleep apnea cases. Be sure to consult a sleep specialist at an AASM accredited sleep center before taking action.