New Option for Sleep Apnea

April 16, 2012 3:03:40 PM PDT
It may look like she's strapping herself in for a trip to space, but Carol Lennon is actually getting ready to go to sleep.

The cumbersome mask that pumps air through Lennon's nostrils to keep her airways open at night, called a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, or CPAP machine, is so uncomfortable, she'd rather wake up gasping for breath.

"I just refuse to use it," said Lennon, who lives just outside Cleveland.

Lennon, 53, has sleep apnea, a disorder that causes her breathing to repeatedly stop and start throughout the night. Not only does sleep apnea leave Lennon feeling tired, it's linked to an increased risk of heart disease, depression and death.

An estimated 18 million Americans have obstructive sleep apnea, according to the National Sleep Foundation. But now they have new treatment option: a device called Provent.

Provent is a small patch that fits over the nose with two small plugs in each nostril. During inhalation, a valve opens, allowing air to flow in freely. During exhalation, the valve closes. Air is directed out through two small channels, increasing the pressure in the airway and helping to keep it open.

Provent is a welcome rival to CPAP, which has long been the gold standard for treating sleep apnea. More than half of patients who try using CPAP stop using it.

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