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Man snoring in bed and keeping his wife awakeSnoring is the audible result of partial respiratory obstruction, which occurs in certain individuals when sleeping. Snoring can cause some serious issues, especially when a person develops obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). OSA is a situation in which the patient actually stops breathing for a period of time. Unless breathing is resumed, this can have serious implications. Four things contribute to snoring, two of which are surgically correctable.


The size of the uvula is a major contributor to snoring. The uvula is the hanging pink structure at the end of the soft palate at the back of the throat. Like the appendix, it serves no useful purpose. If it becomes too large, it will obstruct breathing. As it flutters back and forth, it will cause a vibrating sound, hence snoring. Another animal which routinely snores is the English Bulldog. This animal has a short nose and a very long uvula. Unfortunately, the uvula in the bull dog may continue to grow during its lifetime. The growth of the uvula can eventually proves fatal to the bull dog once it ball-valves the glottis, completely blocks the airway. In the human, surgical reduction of the uvula may eliminate snoring and will certainly reduce it, even if other factors are contributing. The operation is called a uvulopalatoplasty.


Nasal Turbinates

On either side of the nasal septum, there are structures which protrude into each nasal cavity and increase the internal surface area. These structures serve to control air temperature before the air enters the lungs. They also humidify the air and help to clean the air. They are the body’s efficient air conditioners. If a turbinate grows too large, or becomes hypertrophic, it can contribute to airway obstruction. If it is a partial obstruction, snoring can occur as a result. Fortunately, surgical reduction of the turbinates at the internal nasal valve (the narrowest part of the nasal airway), can alleviate the obstruction. This is best achieved by sub-mucus resection of the turbinate bone at its anterior 1/3rd. This will relieve obstruction at the internal valve without compromising the normal beneficial function of the turbinate.


Neck Size

Excessive neck size will predictable reduce airflow and cause partial respiratory obstruction and snoring. This is based on the amount of fat which is compressing the normal airway. Any patient with a neck shirt size of 17 or greater is a likely candidate for snoring. The solution, simply put, is weight loss. Although there are surgical procedures for weight loss, the patient is better served getting on a reliable weight loss program. Being overweight not only reduces the airway but causes a burden on the heart, can cause high blood pressure, type-2 diabetes, and myriad of other issues, including snoring. Remember, you cannot put on what you don’t take in. Therefore, diet and exercise are the key for correction of snoring from being overweight.


Tongue Size

The posterior aspect of the tongue is located in the posterior pharynx, This is directly pinching the airway between the nasal passage and the trachea. If the tongue is too large, it can cause partial airway obstruction and snoring. Unfortunately, this is the one causative aspect of snoring for which there is not a good answer and surgical attempts to reduce the tongue are unwarranted. Tongue function is essential for life and a reliable operation for tongue reduction to reduce snoring does not exist. In such cases, the C-PAP is the best answer.


At Fairbanks Plastic Surgery, your surgeons have extensive experience in reducing snoring by uvula reduction as well as nasal turbinate surgery. If these are the cause of your snoring problem, we can help you. These are the two most common causes of snoring. If you have a snoring problem, be sure to call the office for an appointment and come in for an examination.