Differences Between the Forms of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is a disorder that affects approximately twenty-two million Americans. The characteristics of the disorder are a narrowing or collapse of the airways of the mouth and nose, meaning the sleeping person is unable to get enough air for ten seconds or more. In some cases, the person may stop breathing completely. Having sleep apnea can lead to other health issues, such as diabetes, depression, high blood pressure, irregular or abnormal heart rhythms, or stroke. Sleep apnea can be a potentially fatal disorder, and if someone suspects they have it, they should consult a physician as soon as possible and try to get into a sleep study to gauge how often their breathing has stopped and how little air the lungs receive during the course of the night. The term “sleep apnea” is used as an umbrella term, but in truth, sleep apnea comes in three different forms that differ in terms of their symptoms as well as their treatment protocols.
Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form of sleep apnea and is also the mildest, relatively speaking, although there is still great risk involved with any form of sleep apnea. Central sleep apnea is caused by the brain not sending the proper signals to the muscles that control breathing. Complex sleep apnea is a form where both causes of obstructive and central sleep apnea are present in the patient.
Sleep apnea is known to affect millions of people around the globe due to its varied factors. An individual who suffers from sleep apnea and does not get it treated in a timely manner can also suffer from other medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, or abnormal heart rhythms. The medical term “sleep apnea” is basically a general one; actually, it consists of three forms of sleep apnea that feature different symptoms and treatment methods:
- One of the most common forms of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea. This is also known to be the mildest form, but it still carries risk. When the muscles of the throat and tongue relax while you sleep, it can lead to obstructive sleep apnea. It can also be caused due to an extra-large tonsil that presses on the airway, narrowing it when the individual lies down. It most often occurs in individuals when they lie on their back, are obese, or consume alcohol or certain medications. Age can also be a factor.
- Central sleep apnea is known to be caused by the brain, wherein the right signals are not sent out properly to the various muscles that control the breathing function. The brain does not send the required signals to the diaphragm that tell it to contract and expand, and this can cause the muscles that control breathing to fail to perform correctly, leading the individual to stop breathing suddenly. In simple words, the body forgets on how to breathe at that time. Due to shortness of breath, the individual may wake up all of a sudden, or they may have trouble falling asleep. Age is considered to be one factor, and those suffering from congestive heart failure or who previously had a brain stem stroke are at risk as well. Using narcotic medications before going to bed can also lead to this issue.
- Complex sleep apnea is basically a combination of obstructive and central sleep apnea in an individual. This is known to occur usually when the individual has been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea and has been treated for it as well. The problem is that the patient has been suffering from both obstructive as well as central sleep apnea, but since the obstructive symptoms are more obvious, the signs of complex sleep apnea do not show up until the doctor completes treatment for the obstructive form. This form can be due to a genetic predisposition.
When it comes to treatment for sleep apnea, there are no standard procedures; however, the best methods so far have been using CPAP machines that are turned to the lowest setting, which would allow for the opening of the airways that tend to close in the case of obstructive sleep apnea. BPAP, which is similar to CPAP, is another method for treating sleep apnea.