Central Sleep Apnea | Causes and Symptoms of Central Sleep Apnea

Central Sleep Apnea

Central sleep apnea

In central sleep apnea, the airway is not blocked but the brain fails to signal the muscles to breathe due to instability in the respiratory control center. This type is called central sleep apnea because it is related to the function of the central nervous system.

Central sleep apnea is usually observed in patients with central nervous system dysfunction, such as following a stroke or in patients with neuromuscular diseases like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. It is also common in patients with heart failure and other forms of cardiac and pulmonary disease.

Normally, the brain stem is very sensitive to changes in the blood level of carbon dioxide. The brain stem signals the respiratory muscles to breathe harder and faster to remove carbon dioxide through exhalation, and vice versa when the level is high.

In central sleep apnea, the brain stem is less sensitive to changes in the carbon dioxide level. The body's response is exaggerated as the brain stem responds slowly to the buildup of carbon dioxide in the blood, resulting in extended hyperventilation.

Similarly, because the brain stem responds slowly to the removal of carbon dioxide from the blood, the body's response - a pause in breathing - is prolonged. Brain stem dysfunction that leads to central sleep apnea may be due to brain tumors.

Causes of central sleep apnea:

Causes of central sleep apnea:

  1. Stroke affecting the brainstem
  2. Neurodegenerative illnesses
  3. Bulbar poliomyelitis
  4. Complications of surgery of the cervical spine
  5. Severe arthritic and degenerative changes in the cervical spine and/or base of skull
  6. Primary hypoventilation syndrome.
  7. Strokes, heart failure, and kidney failure

Central sleep apnea symptoms:

Symptoms of central sleep apnea include :

  1. Early morning headaches
  2. Extreme tiredness and sleepiness during daylight hours
  3. Lack of concentration
  4. Memory loss
  5. The failure of sufferers to breathe for extended periods during sleep
  6. Cessation of breathing, especially during sleep

If a neurological condition is causing the apnea, it may also produce other symptoms such as change in voice, changeable weakness, difficulty swallowing, or lack of sensation throughout the body, depending on the underlying disease and what parts of the nervous system it has affected. In central sleep apnea, snoring does not generally occur. However, patterns of breathing may be irregular. In adults with central sleep apnea, the apneas are treated by treating the underlying heart disease, medication interaction, high altitude, or other primary problem.


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