How Does Central Sleep Apnea Get Diagnosed?

There are some medical complications in the world that, regardless of how critically they can influence an individual’s life, do not get much attention. Sleep apnea is definitely one of them. It is basically a sleep disorder in which you either stop breathing or face great difficulty in breathing while you are asleep. You will experience apneic events if you are affected by this problem. These events are the moments when your breath repeatedly gets interrupted by pauses during your sleep.

Sleep apnea is in itself a perilous condition that demands a lot attention. In addition to this, it can lead to numerous severe health issues as well, such as increased risk for blood pressure irregularities, irregular heartbeat, heart failure, heart attack, different strokes, diabetes and obesity.

Sleep apnea is divided into two major categories that are the obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and central sleep apnea abbreviated as (CSA). The focus of this post is on CSA. This complicated form of sleep apnea is explored and explicated from different dimensions. Plus, the process of Central Sleep Apnea Diagnosis is discussed in detail as well.

What Really Central Sleep Apnea (CSA) Is?

CSA is a state in which breathing continuously gets disrupted when you are asleep. It happens because of some irregularities in the functionality of brain. Here it is imperative to clarify one fact regarding central sleep apnea. CSA is not something that forcefully stops you from breathing. Instead in this condition you simply don’t try to respire at all. In other words, it is like you have forgotten how to breathe. The reason why it happens is that it is your brain that does not give signals to your relevant muscles to inhale and exhale air.

This condition may appear to be quite scary, and it really is. CSA is generally associated with severe illnesses, particularly those maladies that badly affect the lower section of the brainstem because it is responsible to control the breathing mechanism. Infants can also encounter this condition and it can pause their breathing for up to twenty seconds. That is why parents must be extremely vigilant about it. In case they observe any potential symptoms of CSA they must get in touch with sleep experts to discuss Sleep Problems Solutions.

Who Generally Gets Affected by Central Sleep Apnea (CSA)?

Different studies and researches have revealed that CSA is relatively more common in older adults, especially those who are over 65. This might happen since they may already have several other medical complexities or those complex sleep patterns that make them more prone to CSA. Another interesting thing about central sleep apnea is that males are at higher risk for encountering both obstructive and central sleep apnea. Some of the other notable factors that increase the risk of CSA are mentioned below:

  • Heart Disorders – Those individuals who have the problem of cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeats) are more susceptible to CSA. Additionally, if your heart is unable to pump an adequate amount of blood to the entire body then it definitely increases your risks of getting CSA.
  • Utilization of Opioids – It has been observed that those individuals who take Opioids based medications face higher risk of attracting CSA.
  • High Altitudes – If you are not used to sleeping at high altitudes then you may stumble upon some of the symptoms of central sleep apnea. However, it only happens temporarily. You can easily get rid of this situation within a week or so once you get back to the lower altitude where you and your brain are habituated to sleep.
  • Brain Tumor or Stroke – These are some of those brain related conditions that can significantly impair your brain’s competence to effectively regulate the breathing mechanism.
  • CPAP – CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) is a therapy that is employed by those individuals who are suffering from the obstructive sleep apnea. When they use this treatment they may develop CSA. The CSA that emerges because of the treatment usually goes away when CPAP is used continuously. In some rare cases, patients might be advised to leave CPAP and focus on any other form of treatment.

What Are The Major Symptoms of CSA?

In order to diagnose and treat CSA in the best possible way, it is imperative to have good knowledge regarding different indications that are linked to it. Some of those major symptoms are listed here:

  • Abnormal patterns of breathing while sleeping or observed sequences of paused or stopped breathing
  • Lower exercise tolerance
  • Sudden awakenings that are followed by breathlessness
  • Snoring
  • Breathlessness that is alleviated once you sit up
  • Headaches in the morning
  • Insomnia or facing difficulty in staying asleep
  • Mood swings
  • Hypersomnia (excessive sleepiness during daytime)
  • Having issues in focusing on anything
  • Having severe pain in the chest at night

Even though snoring might indicate some level of obstruction in the airflow, it can also be observed in those individuals who are suffering from the CSA. However, snoring is more prominently linked to the OSP than it is to central sleep apnea.

Central Sleep Apnea Diagnosis – How Is It Performed?

Like any another medical condition CSA must also be diagnosed as soon as possible so that its treatment can be started in a timely manner. Sleep specialists are well versed when it comes to diagnosing CSA since they have all the required expertise and training.

If you are have CSA and periodic breathing related issues because of high altitude, then in this case all you need to provide is your detailed history. It will be more than enough to identify the problem. Sleep experts may also put you on schedule for a sleep study during the night. Such study is known as polysomnogram. It can be considerably helpful for the doctor to accurately pin point your issue.

In an overwhelming number of cases the original reasons that lead to CSA are different severe medical conditions which must be determined and treated right away. Sleep specialists are capable of devising a comprehensive treatment plan that is made according to your unique needs. However, before getting to this point s/he is bound to establish those causes that are the culprits of inducing CSA. They also look for many other medical conditions which might create similar issues with sleeping. They may include:

  • Substance Abuse
  • Another sleeping disorder
  • Any kind of mental disorder
  • Any medical problem
  • Utilization of different medications

The doctors might ask you to provide an in-depth overview of all the symptoms along with the number of days, months or years since you’ve had those symptoms. Sleep specialists will also inquire about whether you started to see the symptoms of CSA when you encountered any other medical condition or slumbered at a higher altitude than you are accustomed to.

All this information plays a vital role in effectively conducting the Central Sleep Apnea Diagnosis. Therefore, you can also get in touch with your family members and friends with whom you spend a considerable amount of time. That includes roommates, teammates, close friends, relative and spouses. It is highly likely that they may have noticed something out of the ordinary. Furthermore, the doctor might ask you to maintain a sleep journal for around two weeks. It must include information mentioned below:

  • The exact time you go to bed every single night
  • Whether you rested all through the day or felt sleepy
  • At what time you wake up every morning
  • How many naps do you take in a day
  • Whether you feel well rested once you wake up every morning
  • The number of times you wake up at night

The prime purpose of collecting this information is to draw a clear sleeping pattern that your doctor can analyze. This info can give significant clues to the sleep specialists regarding the factors that are causing this issue and the appropriate way to treat it.

After carefully examining the sleep diary, if your doctor gets some convincing evidence of CSA, then s/he will recommend you to pursue the next step that is polysomnogram. It is essentially a sleep study that is conducted overnight.  Polysomnogram helps in charting your breathing, heart beat and brain waves while you are asleep. This study also tracks down the movement of legs and arms. The whole procedure is designed to disclose if you really have CSA. Once this diagnosis is completed you can further discuss your Sleep Problems Solutions with the doctor.

What Treatments Are Available for CSA?

According to the intensity and complexity of your condition, doctors can choose any of the following treatments for CSA.

  • Tackling Associated Medical Issues – One big reason that causes CSA in many cases are the associated medical conditions. Dealing with your heart related maladies and other mental disorders can automatically assist you in getting rid of central sleep apnea. 
  • Decreasing the Consumption of Opioids Based Medications – If you take medications that are based on Opioids to cure any other medical condition, your sleep specialist might recommend you to reduce the dose of such curatives in a gradual way.
  • By Taking Medicines – There are certain medications like theophylline (Theo-24) or acetazolamide (Diamox) which have shown the ability to stimulate overall breathing mechanism of those people who have the problem of CSA. However, it is imperative to mention here that these medicines should not be taken without getting a prescription from an experienced and trained physician or sleep specialist.
  • Supplemental Oxygen – Doctors at times also advise to make use of supplemental oxygen once you go to bed. There are many devices available in the market these days that can deliver a reasonable amount of oxygen directly to the lungs.

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) – As mentioned earlier, this method is usually used to treat OBS. However, some sleep specialists prefer to begin the treatment of CSA patients with CPAP. In this therapy, you will have to wear a mask either over your nose or mouth. This mask gets connected to an air supplying pump that keeps on pumping the pressurized air. It helps in keeping your mouth open while you are asleep and consequently stops CSA to trigger.