Loyola Medicine otolaryngologist corrects sleep apnea symptoms with ENT procedure

For Jason Johnson, nights were anything but restful. The 16-year-old high school student would often wake up with difficulty breathing.

"I would wake up in the middle of the night really congested," Jason said. "It was hard to breathe."

Loyola Medicine otolaryngologist Paul Jones, MD, diagnosed Jason with sleep apnea, a sleeping disorder in which breathing is briefly and repeatedly interrupted. It is usually caused by something blocking the airway.

While sleep apnea can occur at any age, it is less common in teenagers. Sleep apnea is usually discovered in school age children ages 3 to 6 and in older adults.

For parents whose children are restless sleepers, Dr. Jones recommends looking for related symptoms such as snoring, gasping or choking for breath, heavy breathing while awake, excessive sleepiness during the day and bedwetting. Children with sleep apnea may have trouble waking up in the morning and struggle in school.

While enlarged tonsils and adenoids are a common cause of obstructive sleep apnea, Jason had previously had them removed. So Dr. Jones performed a diagnostic sleep endoscopy, during which a fiber optic endoscope is passed through the nasal cavity to accurately diagnose the airway obstruction. The procedure revealed Jason had obstructive tissue in the upper larynx, which was removed in a surgery known as supraglottoplasty.

"We clipped those little cartilages and he's done great since," Dr. Jones said.

Jason said the surgery was life-changing. "I'm not waking up in the middle of the night," he said. "I'm able to finish all of my homework without falling asleep."

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