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Understanding the Difference Between Obstructive and Central Sleep Apnea

Understanding the Difference Between Obstructive and Central Sleep Apnea

Have you been diagnosed with or think you might have sleep apnea? There’s more than one form of this condition. Learn about obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and central sleep apnea (CSA) and what we can do to treat these disorders.

At Turnquest Surgical Solutions, our board-certified general and bariatric surgeons, Dexter Turnquest, MD, and Victoria C. Chang, MD, treat many patients with sleep apnea

It’s important to get your sleep apnea under control because it has numerous detrimental effects on your body. 

What is obstructive sleep apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common form of this sleep disorder. OSA occurs because your airway is blocked and you can’t get enough air into your lungs. 

Your throat muscles relax when you’re asleep. If the muscles collapse too much and/or you have fatty tissue in the way, it blocks your throat and the passage to your lungs. As a result, your chest muscles and diaphragm have to work harder for you to draw in enough air.

Your brain then sends a signal to your body to wake up because you aren’t taking in enough oxygen. You may wake up more than 100 times during the night without realizing it, gasp for breath, and fall back to sleep. It’s not surprising that you wake up in the morning feeling fatigued. 

OSA is often a result of obesity because excess fat can block your airway and lower the response of your throat muscles. Your body tissue and blood vessels don’t get enough oxygen throughout the night. 

When this happens night after night, it can lead to atherosclerosis, which can then lead to cardiovascular disease.

Central sleep apnea and how it differs from OSA 

Central sleep apnea (CSA) is a less common form of this disorder, but with the same types of health consequences: waking up repeatedly during the night (although you may not remember it), not getting enough oxygen to breathe, and feeling fatigued all day. 

Your brain is the command central for your body. With CSA, your brain fails to send signals to the muscles that help regulate your breathing, so you stop breathing temporarily.

CSA is usually associated with an underlying illness in which the base of the brainstem that regulates your breathing malfunctions. CSA can occur in newborns. And it’s often associated with a brain infection, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, and heart failure, as well as obesity. 

Treatment for sleep apnea

If you lose enough weight, your sleep apnea may disappear. At the very least, it minimizes your symptoms. Losing weight can also reduce your blood pressure and improve pulmonary function. 

When you have sleep apnea, you may need a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) or BiPAP machine to help you get enough oxygen while you’re asleep. 

If enlarged tonsils are a cause of your sleep apnea, we can perform a tonsillectomy to provide more space in your airway. If you can’t get your weight under control, we can perform one of several weight loss surgeries

Untreated sleep apnea can progress to the point where you have numerous health complications. Don’t let it go that far. Call or request an appointment online at one of our two Houston, Texas, locations.

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