Snoring is a condition that causes a lot of people personal and social grief. According to some statistics, about 30 percent of people over the age of 30 snore, and the condition affects more men than women. While there are a variety of ways to treat the problem, many people wonder if surgery is a good option for fixing the issue. The answer is, it depends on the root cause of the condition.
Causes of Snoring
Snoring can occur as a singular issue, or it can be a symptom of a larger medical problem. Pinpointing the exact cause of snoring is the first step in determining if surgery is a viable solution. The condition can be the result of:
- Irregular anatomy in the mouth (e.g. low and/or thick palate)
- Mouth, throat, or nose tissues that become enlarged due to disease or natural changes in the body
- Nasal passages blocked due to structural issues such as a deviated septum
- Loss of muscle tone in the mouth and throat structures due to age, disability, or lack of strength causing those structures to collapse into the airway during sleep
- Being overweight; excess fat in the throat can block the airways
- Alcohol consumption
- Sleep apnea
Out of all these conditions, surgery would most likely be appropriate for those situations where snoring is caused by persistent structural issues. For instance, a deviated septum is often corrected by removing the excess bone and cartilage that is having a negative impact on the person's breathing. Snoring caused by other conditions such as alcohol use or obesity may be better treated by lifestyle changes, medication, or oral appliances.
The Effectiveness of Surgery
How well surgery works to correct snoring depends on the underlying cause of the problem and the type of procedure done. For instance, surgery to correct a deviated septum (called septoplasty) has an over 80-percent success rate. However, laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty (a procedure that removes uvula and thins the palate) has a lower success rate of 55 percent.
In some cases, the surgery successfully corrects the cause of snoring, but the problem recurs after a period of time. For example, a nasal polypectomy removes soft growths in the nose (called polyps) that block the airway. Though this may stop the snoring in the short term, the polyps sometimes return after a few months or a few years, necessitating either additional surgery or the use of medication to manage the condition.
Be aware, though, that the success rate of a particular procedure is impacted by a number of factors such as patient fitness for the surgery and doctor experience performing it. Additionally, every person is different. What may work for one individual may not be the best option for another. You should connect with an ear, nose, and throat doctor or surgeon to discuss whether surgery is a good fit for your situation.
Things to Think About When Considering Surgical Options
In general, it's best to try all other treatment options for fixing a snoring problem before opting for the surgical solution. Surgery involves a certain amount of risk, and you don't want to incur that risk unnecessarily if a non-surgical remedy will stop your snoring.
Most importantly, not all insurance companies consider snoring to be a life- or health-threatening condition. Therefore, your policy may not cover the surgery, requiring you to pay out of pocket for it. Your insurance provider may be more likely to pay for the surgery if your snoring is caused by an underlying condition that does negatively impact your health, such as sleep apnea or swollen tonsils. It's a good idea to talk to your provider prior to choosing surgery to make sure it's covered.
For more information about surgical treatments for snoring, contact an ear, nose, and throat specialist. You can also click here for more information.