Sleep apnoea in the spotlight

Behind the Headlines

Thursday July 28 2011

Ed Miliband has had an operation to treat sleep apnoea

Many newspapers reported today that Ed Miliband, leader of the Labour party, has had successful surgery on his nose to correct a breathing problem. According to The Daily Telegraph, Miliband revealed in April that he has a condition called “sleep apnoea, which interrupts breathing during sleep, made worse by a deviated septum in his nose”. The Independent reported that the “hour-long NHS procedure took place at the Royal National Throat, Nose and Ear Hospital in central London”.

Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is a relatively common condition that causes interrupted breathing during sleep. Most people with OSA snore loudly and their breathing may be noisy and laboured.

A deviated nasal septum occurs when the thin wall of cartilage between the two nasal cavities is slightly displaced to one side. If this displacement is significant it can obstruct breathing and cause snoring.

There are several treatments for sleep apnoea, depending on what is causing the breathing obstruction. Many cases can be treated by making lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, avoiding alcohol and quitting smoking.

Based on the news reports, Miliband’s sleep apnoea may have been caused or exacerbated by a deviated septum. One option for treating this is to have an operation called a septoplasty, which involves repositioning the septum with the aim of reducing snoring and disruption of the breathing pattern during sleep. It is important to note that not all people with OSA have a deviated nasal septum, and not all people with a deviated nasal septum have OSA or need surgery.

Anyone experiencing sleep disturbance or excessive snoring that is causing them concern should consult their doctor to discuss the best course of action for them.

Find more detailed information on sleep apnoea in Health A-Z.

Edited by NHS Choices


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