October 13, 2010

More on Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is not a simple problem. There are problems that I have not covered and there is not one size fits all solution.

I have been covering obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) from mild, moderate, to severe.
OSA is the most common type of sleep apnea. It happens when the soft tissue in the back of your throat relaxes during sleep, causing a blockage of the airway (as well as loud snoring). Snoring is one of the symptoms of sleep apnea, but does not always mean that your have sleep apnea. (Don't let your non-snoring spouse see this).

Now I must add - central sleep apnea and mixed (complex) sleep apnea. Central sleep apnea, while much less common, is still serious. It involves the central nervous system, rather than an airway obstruction. It occurs when the brain fails to signal the muscles that control breathing. People with central sleep apnea seldom snore. This is what makes it so serious – it is more difficult to diagnose.

Complex sleep apnea (some use the term of mixed sleep apnea) is a combination of OSA and central sleep apnea. Be sure to read this about sleep apnea.

Unlike OSA, in which you can't breathe normally because of upper airway obstruction, central sleep apnea results when your brain doesn't send the signals to the muscles that control your breathing. Central sleep apnea is less common, accounting for less than five percent of sleep apneas.

Central sleep apnea may occur as a result of other conditions, such as heart failure and stroke. Sleeping at a high altitude also may cause central sleep apnea. Other medical conditions also cause central sleep apnea. Life-threatening problems with the brain stem is also a cause. Read this for more on other medical problems.

Treatment can include CPAP or oral appliances, but often requires oxygen being supplemented. Your physician may preform a physical exam in addition to a sleep study. Other test that may be included are lung function studies and a MRI.

Central sleep apnea patients should avoid the use of any sedative medications Some types of central sleep apnea can be treated with drugs that will stimulate breathing. If it is due to heart failure, the goal will be to treat the heart failure itself. Other symptoms may include apnea due to neurological condition. The symptoms depend on the cause of the disease and what parts of the nervous is affected, but may include difficulty in swallowing, voice changes, and weakness or numbness throughout the body.

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