By Terry Bayliss, CEO, Alaxo Airway Stents
Nasal breathing is essential for optimal health by filtering, warming and humidifying inhaled air. This protects the lungs, leads to better oxygen supply to the body, stimulates the calming nervous system, and reduces snoring and sleep apnea. All of these factors contribute to a stronger immune system and improve quality of life, which is particularly critical during the COVID-19 pandemic when many people are avoiding a visit to the physician for preventive measures.
The pandemic has also led to rapid growth of telehealth for addressing all aspects of medicine, including sleep issues. This has meant dramatically reduced wait-times from referral to diagnosis and treatment of sleep-related breathing disorders, as well as increased adherence to treatment.
Telehealth also makes it possible for patients to improve nasal breathing by accessing innovative stent-based airway stents to support healthy, natural, nasal breathing to improve sleep, treat snoring and sleep apnea, and enhance athletic performance. Airway stents represent a non-surgical and effective treatment to effectively support the upper airway passage.
This medical device can be inserted by the patient into the nose and throat at night and removed in the morning – comparable to the ease of wearing contact lenses.
Because they improve nasal breathing, stents are also effective for mitigating symptoms of chronic sinusitis and provide support for health issues that impact quality of life, such as allergies, rhinitis, chronic rhinitis, sinusitis and allergic rhinitis, as well as many autoimmune diseases.
Addressing Sleep Disorders
More than one-third of American adults don’t get enough sleep each night, despite an increased risk of developing chronic conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and mental illness. For many, part of the problem is that their sleep is interrupted by snoring, sleep apnea—a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts—and inability to breathe through the nose.
What’s more, sleep deprivation is associated with growth hormone deficiency and elevated cortisol levels, both of which have been linked to obesity. Additionally, insufficient sleep can impair metabolism. One of the most serious health consequences that comes from disrupted, poor quality sleep is a significantly increased risk for diabetes. In addition, shorter sleep times in individuals treated with both insulin and oral glucose-lowering medication have been associated with higher risks of all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality.
The most common symptoms of sleep apnea include loud snoring, gasping for air during sleep, waking with a dry mouth, morning headache, insomnia, excessive daytime sleepiness, poor concentration and mood.
An estimated 45% of adults snore occasionally and 25% snore regularly. Besides CPAP, other treatments include oral appliances and surgery. CPAP pushes air into the airways to keep them open with a pump that controls airflow, a tube carrying air from the machine to the user, and a mask that goes over the mouth, nose or both. Common problems with CPAP include discomfort, leaky mask, trouble falling asleep, stuffy nose and a dry mouth.
While not all snoring is a sign of sleep apnea, sleep disorders have become a significant health issue in the United States, with 22 million Americans living with sleep apnea and 80% of moderate and severe obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) going undiagnosed.
OSA occurs when the muscles that support the soft tissues in the throat, such as the tongue and soft palate, temporarily relax narrowing or closing airways and momentarily cutting off breathing. Untreated OSA can lead to high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, atrial fibrillation, stroke and other cardiovascular problems. This disorder is also associated with Type 2 diabetes and depression and is a factor in a large number of traffic accidents due to persistent drowsiness.
Choosing the Right Airway Stents
The most effective airway stents are made of nitinol, a nickel-titanium alloy that has super-elastic characteristics. The stents should also be clinically proven to support the upper airway passage to allow for better airflow and easier breathing, improve nasal breathing and enhance sleep and physical performance.
Ideally, stents can be worn for up to 18 hours at a time, are reusable and produced on a special braiding machine, with a ball-shaped designed to widen for positioning at the nasal valve and a cylindrical longer portion that opens the turbinates. The stent should have an opening force to support the nasal alar and valve, while splinting the turbinates, which leads to a healthy diameter of the airway and an improvement in nasal breathing. This also keeps the nasal tissue from getting overstretched to prevent mucosal irritation. With a little practice, the stents can be easily installed into the nose and are easy to remove, clean and disinfected.
The stents should have been clinically tested for treatment of patients struggling with OSA and snoring and designed to support healthy, natural, nasal breathing at night and during the day. It’s also important to use a medical device that has been FDA-approved and works as a complement to traditional treatments for OSA.
People with breathing-related sleep issues and other conditions are only one telehealth visit away from accessing innovative medical devices to enhance individual general health and well-being and improve athletic and job performance.
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