If your child snores and demonstrates other signs of disturbed sleep, it may indicate obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). OSA is a condition that is more widespread in children than most people think. Estimates suggest that childhood OSA affects one to four percent of all children. Here is what you should look for and what you can do if you suspect your child has OSA.
OSA In Children
OSA is due to blockage in the airway. The syndrome affects many children primarily between the ages of two and six. There are medical conditions that can increase the risk of a child having OSA such as Down’s syndrome, cerebral palsy, and craniofacial abnormalities. Obesity is a significant cause of childhood OSA, and a new study indicates a higher prevalence of OSA among obese children. A few of the frequent signs and symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea in children include:
Restlessness with sleep
Weight loss or poor weight gain
Sweating at night
Excessive daytime sleepiness
Various factors can lead to the narrowing of the upper airway which causes OSA in children. These factors fall into four major causes of OSA:
Enlarged tonsils and adenoids. This airway enlargement is the most common cause of OSA in children. The presence of enlarged tissue alone does not warrant OSA, but the removal of the expanded tissue benefits children who are experiencing OSA.
Obesity. Childhood obesity is a significant problem and ranks as being a substantial contributor to OSA.
Craniofacial abnormalities. Abnormalities of the head and face increase the prevalence of OSA in children. These conditions that decrease the size of the nose, mouth, and throat, often lead to a collapse of the airway during the night.
Neuromuscular factors. A loss of control of the upper musculature can lead to OSA. A change in muscle tone may also contribute to the problem.
Talk to your child’s primary care physician regarding any concerns you may have about your child’s breathing during the night. The doctor may suggest further testing from a sleep specialist, an ENT, or a pulmonary physician. The visit should include the taking of medical history and a physical examination. A child may need polysomnography and visualization of the upper airway to confirm a diagnosis of OSA.
Treating OSA in a child depends on the cause of the apnea. If enlarged tonsils and adenoids are the problems, surgical removal of them is the usual treatment. There are other types of surgical procedures indicated for children with craniofacial abnormalities. Of course, weight loss and the treatment of other medical problems is useful in managing OSA. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is another option.
Left untreated, OSA can cause weak growth, high blood pressure, heart problems, behavioral problems, and cognitive problems in a child. Early evaluation and diagnosis of OSA are critical. Treatment options depend on numerous factors and are specific for each child.
OSA in children is a severe condition that is the result of obesity, enlarged tonsils, and adenoids, neuromuscular disorders, or craniofacial abnormalities. It is treatable through weight loss, surgery, and CPAP. If you suspect your child has the symptoms of OSA, schedule an appointment with a healthcare provider today for a diagnosis and possible treatment options.