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Obstructive sleep apnea: Blocked upper airway

Normal airway, showing air flowing through open airway, compared to obstructive sleep apnea, showing air flow blocked by tongue in narrowed airway.

Blocked or narrowed airways in your nose, mouth, or throat can cause sleep apnea. Your airway can become narrowed when your throat muscles and tongue relax during sleep.

Current as of: July 6, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Hasmeena Kathuria MD - Pulmonology, Critical Care Medicine, Sleep Medicine
Lesley Ryan MD - Family Medicine

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