Central Sleep Apnea
What Causes CSA?
A properly functioning regulatory mechanism in the human brain responds to changes in oxygen and carbon dioxide levels by modifying the speed at which an individual breathes. However, the brains of individuals affected by CSA misinterpret the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide being inhaled and exhaled, slowing down breathing rates to dangerously low levels.
There are two distinct types of CSA: primary, which has no underlying condition as a cause, and secondary, which occurs as the result of a pre-existing condition. Some of these conditions might be the following:
- Stroke, encephalitis or any other damage to the brain, particularly the brainstem
- Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and Lou Gehrig’s disease
- Congestive heart failure
- Thyroid disease, predominantly hypothyroid (or low functioning thyroid gland)
- Arthritis with degenerative changes in the cervical spine area
If is important for those living at high altitude or travelling to such locations to be aware of the effect on breathing and specifically CSA as well as OSA. What occurs at altitudes of greater than 6,000 feet is a breathing pattern know as high-altitude periodic breathing, whereby individuals alternate between rapid breathing and not breathing adequately. This type of breathing can result in multiple instances of breathing pauses throughout the night along with disturbances in sleep.
What Are The Symptoms Of CSA?
A hallmark of OSA is snoring, which is not typically found in individuals with a CSA diagnosis. People with CSA might have the following symptoms:
- Daytime tiredness
- Frequent wakening throughout the night
- Problems with mood
- Early morning headaches
- Difficulty with concentration and poor memory
What Are Treatment Options?
Just as in obstructive sleep apnea, the treatment for CSA is based upon the severity level. Even in mild cases however, CSA is serious enough to seek immediate medical attention. The most common treatment is the continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device, which is often used to treat OSA as well. The CPAP device forces the affected individual to breathe a constant stream of pressurized oxygen and effectively combats the improper signals sent by the brain. For cases of sleep apnea stemming exclusively from high altitude, certain prescription medications are available, such as acetazolamide.
However, if CSA is due to an underlying condition, for instance, congestive heart failure, the individual should seek and be treated for that condition.
As with OSA, people with CSA can try some simple measures to help decrease their symptoms. They can include:
- Lose weight
- Sleep on your side and not your back.
- Don’t drink alcohol and take sleeping pills.
- Try to go to sleep and get up at regular hours.
If you would like to learn more, please contact one of our medical concierges today at 1-855-863-4537 to schedule a free consultation.