DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My husband snores so loudly that I rarely sleep through an entire night. When I wake, I watch him, and his snoring suddenly stops for a pause. He kind of twitches, and then it starts again. I think my husband might have sleep apnea. I read about it. What do you think? – V.D.

ANSWER:
I think he might have sleep apnea, too.

Typically, sleep apnea consists of snoring that grows ever louder until there is a sudden pause in the racket. The room goes quiet for a short time, then the snorer makes a grunting noise and snoring resumes.

The quiet period is a period of no breathing (the literal meaning of “apnea”). It lasts for 10 or more seconds. Toward the end of the apneic period, the affected person semi-wakens, which might be signaled by a grunt or a thrashing movement.

The snoring is due to loose, redundant throat tissue that vibrates as air moves past it. It’s very much like the reed in a wind instrument making musical sounds. The apneic periods represent complete obstruction of airflow.

Apneic periods have important consequences. They can cause a permanent rise in blood pressure. They leave the blood with an oxygen deficit that makes the person groggy the following day.

If your husband is overweight, weight loss can bring a remarkable improvement to apnea patients. It also cuts down the decibel level of their snoring.

A nasal mask, the CPAP mask, sends pressurized air through the nose and throat. The air slips by the loose tissue with ease. Apneic spells decrease and usually vanish. Snoring diminishes. Another remedy is a dental device that brings the jaw slightly forward and opens the throat for better air passage. Surgical procedures are also available.

Sleep centers have the equipment to monitor many body functions during sleep. That information can provide a definite diagnosis.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Please tell your readers to cover their mouths and noses when they cough or sneeze. My entire family is down with colds because of people’s thoughtlessness. You have my eternal gratitude if you publish my letter. – W.W.

ANSWER:
My readers do something like that? Perish the thought.

Covering the mouth and nose while coughing or sneezing does prevent a spray of viruses into the environment. However, fingers are the major way colds are spread.

A person with a cold who touches the nose even for a moment comes away with a coating of virus on the finger. When that person touches another, as in handshaking, transfer of the virus takes place, and the second person is left with a coat of virus on the hands and fingers. A brief touch of the nose or the eyes by person No. 2 gives the virus a chance to enter the body and begin an infection.

Important as nose- and mouth-covering are, hand-washing is more important for prevention. It is also important for people with colds so they don’t spread viruses.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My upper eyelids flop down over my eyes and interfere with what I can see. What’s happening to me? Can it be fixed? – W.A.

ANSWER:
One cause of drooping upper eyelids is blepharoptosis (BLEF-uh-row-TOE-suss), a condition that develops from a weakening of the tiny muscle that holds the lid up.

Another cause of droopy lids is dermatochalasis (DUR-muh-toe-CAL-uh-suss). Here, fat and loose tissue fill the lid to make it droop. It too can be remedied surgically.

Please do not hold me responsible for the names. I did not invent them.

Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475.


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