A tiny device fitted to the nose before bedtime is promising to bring relief too many of the 775,000 Australians living with untreated sleep apnea.
Doctors are welcoming EPAP, or Expiratory Positive Airway Pressure, as a compact and portable new treatment to help sufferers manage the chronic night-time snoring condition.
Dr John Swieca, Melbourne Sleep Disorders Centre said, "Until recently there were just four options for treating obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) - CPAP, dental splints, surgery and weight loss - but for up to 50 per cent of sufferers, these treatments were either ineffective, intolerable or unattainable".
EPAP is a fresh approach in which a small one-way valve is attached to each nostril, creating enough resistance on the out breath to hold the airway open and enable natural airflow during sleep.
Studies by the specialists behind Provent Therapy show this simple treatment can significantly reduce snoring and daytime sleepiness in patients with mild, moderate and severe OSA. And with no need for power cords or water, EPAP offers an uncomplicated alternative that may prove easier for many patients to use to keep their condition in check.
Dr Jack Philpott, Sleep and Respiratory Physician, Hollywood Hospital in Perth, said the therapy brought hope for the thousands of patients who had failed on other treatments.
"Previously if a patient couldn't tolerate CPAP or dental splints and didn't want surgery then we could only advise them on weight loss," he said.
"The development of a new treatment for OSA means that all my patients who are currently untreated now have the option of trialling a new form of treatment that is relatively simple to use but very effective in managing sleep apnoea.
Dr Stuart Miller, Sleep Physician, Canberra Sleep Clinic said, "I am getting good feedback from my patients because it is relatively easy to use and tolerate at night and the follow-up sleep studies show significant improvement in the severity of their sleep apnoea."
Some patients who use a CPAP machine at home may find it more convenient to switch to the single use EPAP devices while traveling, Dr Miller said.
Dr John Corbett, Sleep Physician, Snore Australia said, "Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type of sleep disorder yet a large number of people remain untreated. This is very concerning given that OSA is a chronic condition which can't be cured and is associated with diabetes, heart failure and high blood pressure.
"EPAP is appealing to those who don't want to be hooked up to a machine at night because they can put the nasal patches on just before they go to sleep and easily remove them in the morning."
Provent Therapy is a small device which attaches to each nostril with hypoallergenic adhesive. Within each device is a MicroValve which allows the person to breathe in normally but when they breathe out the MicroValve partially closes creating pressure in the airway. This is called Expiratory Positive Airway Pressure or EPAP. Creating pressure in the airway keeps the airway open and prevents apneas and snoring from occurring.
Provent has recently become available in Australia and can be prescribed by sleep physicians and GPs.
For more information, see www.proventtherapy.com