Sleep Apnea? Fat tongue could be the reason

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SHAFAQNA – A new study has found an unbelievable cause for sleep apnea in obese adults, which shows that the reason is having a fat tongue. That’s correct, a large tongue with relatively higher percentage of fat may be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea. Study suggests that patients of sleep apnea have significantly greater tongue volumes. Their tongues are fatter than those who don’t have this disorder. A deeper analysis also points that tongue fat percentage is specific to location on tongue with increased fats towards the base of the tongue in retroglossal region.

Principal investigator and senior author Dr. Richard J Schwab, Professor in the Department of Medicine and co-director of the Penn Sleep Center at University of Pennsylvania Medical Center in Philadelphia described this as the first of a kind study that shows fat deposits are more in the tongue of obese patients with obstructive sleep apnea. He continued that this gives an evidence of a novel pathogenic mechanism explaining the relationship between obstructive sleep apnea and obesity.

It would be a point taken for the physicians to evaluate physical feature of the tongue, specifically its size, when examining patients with risk of sleep apnea, according to Dr. Timothy Morgenthaler, President of American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

On 90 obese adults with sleep apnea and 31 obese-controls without sleep apnea, the study was conducted where all subjects underwent high resolution upper airway magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). And then to study the size and distribution of upper airway fat deposits in tongue, sophisticated volumetric reconstruction algorithms were used.

It is also discussed that increased tongue fat may impair the functioning of the muscles that attach the tongue to the bone, preventing these muscles from positioning the tongue away from their airway. Researchers have proposed this reason in addition to the enlarging size of the tongue to study and diagnose sleep apnea signs.

Snoring, choking, gasping or silent breathing pauses during sleep are common warning signs of sleep apnea.

If experts are to be believed and according to researchers, future studies and advancements should be made to remove tongue fat through weight loss, upper airway exercises or surgery as a potential treatment for sleep apnea to ensure sound and healthy sleep for the patients suffering from sleep apnea.

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