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 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:
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:
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.