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Can obstructive sleep apnea be cured?

Phil Westbrook
Sleep Medicine

For the vast majority of people with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) their condition is a chronic disease. If you have OSA it will last your lifetime. It can be successfully managed, but it will not be cured. In that way OSA is like other chronic diseases such as diabetes or high blood pressure.

In highly selected patients surgical cures of OSA have been reported. Cures have also occurred in those rare patients who lose enough weight and maintain that weight loss for a lifetime. Otherwise the tendency of a person's throat to collapse during sleep is always there, and must be treated every night. The good news is that treatments that successfully manage your OSA are available, but you will be the one responsible for treating it. Just like a patient with high blood pressure or diabetes must be responsible for taking daily medication, you must apply the CPAP or EPAP device when you are ready for sleep, or insert the oral appliance, or avoid sleeping on your back. Although your doctor prescribes therapy, and helps you understand your disease, you are the one who treats it. If you are unable or unwilling to comply with the first treatment prescribed, try another. If a treatment does completely eliminate your obstructive breathing events but it is the only one you can or will use, use it. Some treatment is better than none. Do not give up.

Scott M. Leibowitz, MD
Sleep Medicine

Sleep apnea is a chronic disease that has no real cure other than weight loss, if weight is a primary influence on the severity of your sleep apnea. Watch this video to learn more from Dr. Scott Leibowitz about sleep apnea being a chronic disease.

Obstructive sleep apnea is a chronic disease for most people who are diagnosed. There are some patients who have had obstructive sleep apnea resolve. This may be with significant weight loss when obesity was the cause of the sleep apnea. In other cases, patients have sleep apnea because of very large tonsils, and surgical removal of the tonsils may help these patients to resolve their apnea.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.