Snoring is caused by an obstruction that interferes with the free passage of air through the airways. This obstruction may be in the throat or the nasal passages. There are a number of treatments that can address the causes of snoring and lead to a permanent solution.
The soft palate of the mouth may be large or redundant. In this case, it can interfere with air flow and produce snoring. This condition can be treated with one of two procedures: radiofrequency or the pillar procedure.
Radiofrequency treatments are usually performed as outpatient procedures. The patient is given a local anesthetic, and a small radiofrequency probe is positioned to deliver a flow of energy to the tissue of the palate. This energy causes shrinkage and scarring of the tissue, which, over time, will reduce the size of the palate. Radiofrequency treatments are usually repeated over several visits to maximize the effectiveness of the procedure.
The pillar procedure is also performed on an outpatient basis with local anesthetic. It involves inserting small Dacron implants into the soft palate. These implants cause the tissue of the palate to stiffen around them, and this stiffening will, over time, cause the tissue to shrink. This shrinkage opens the airway and reduces the chance of snoring.
A second cause of snoring is when the uvula is enlarged and protrudes into the airway. This condition often produces multiple symptoms, including difficulty in swallowing and general irritation of the throat.
An enlarged uvula may be removed entirely, eliminating snoring and any other related symptoms. This procedure is called a uvulectomy. Depending on the patient’s individual circumstances, the uvulectomy may be performed using either general or local anesthetic.
Treating Both the Palate and Uvula
In some patients, snoring is caused by a combination of enlargements of the palate and the uvula. In this case, a single procedure may be used to address both problems. This procedure is called laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty.
Uvulopalatoplasty uses a laser-assisted technique to remove the uvula and shrink the soft palate. This results in the overall increase in size of the airway. The larger airway decreases the incidence of snoring and can ease sleep apnea in patients that suffer from that condition. Laser assisted uvulopalatoplasty may be performed as an outpatient procedure or in a hospital operating room.
Sometimes snoring is not caused by an obstruction in the throat but by obstruction of the nasal passages. There are structures in the nasal cavity called nasal turbinates, and they can become enlarged, blocking the airway.
There are two methods that can be used to reduce the size of nasal turbinates. Radiofrequency treatments can be used to shrink the tissue, leaving a more open airway. These treatments may be performed with a local anesthetic as an outpatient procedure or under general anesthetic in a hospital, depending upon the individual patient.
The second method that can be used to open the nasal passages is microdebriding. This technique uses a device called a microdebrider to precisely target the tissue of the nasal turbinates.