If sleep apnea goes untreated, it can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, and, yes, blood clots. Patients who suffer from sleep apnea are more at risk of developing blood clots in the lungs which is otherwise known as pulmonary embolism.
A patient that has had one or more pulmonary embolisms has a 30% higher risk of developing another blood clot in the future.
It is always important to uncover the contributing factors for pulmonary embolisms to reduce the risk of future blood clots and, in turn, limit the risk of dying.
One contributing factor to these higher risks is obstructive sleep apnea or OSA. This also shares many of the same risk factors with pulmonary embolism.
A study undertaken by Dr. Alberto Alonso-Fernández looked at 120 patients for up to eight years after their first pulmonary embolism.
The research found that 19% of the patients had a recurring pulmonary embolism and 16% of these experienced sleep apnea. Therefore, the study found that patients who suffered from OSA had a higher risk of getting another blood clot.
Looking at the Apnea-Hypopnea Index which studies the level of sleep apnea and nocturnal hypoxemia (a low concentration of oxygen in the blood while sleeping), it was found that these are related risk factors for recurring blood clots.
Can sleep apnea cause a stroke?
According to a study by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, around 26% of Americans suffer from sleep apnea. Although a relatively common disorder, many of these people live with a higher risk of a stroke.
Sleep apnea and strokes are unfortunately closely connected as both conditions work in particularly unique ways in the brain. This can lead to one affecting the other in numerous ways.
A stroke impacts the arteries and brain directly, especially the arteries inside the brain and those that lead to the brain. A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel that delivers key nutrients and oxygen to the brain becomes ruptured.
On the other hand, an ischemic stroke happens when a blood clot blocks a blood vessel, stopping it from supplying the brain with enough nutrients and oxygen.
Sleep apnea has a direct link in both types of stroke. If your breathing becomes interrupted during sleep, critical oxygen can’t get into your bloodstream. This results in your brain not receiving enough oxygen, not even for everyday functions.
If sleep apnea becomes serious, it can increase the risk of a stroke. Untreated sleep apnea which goes on for an elongated period of time can lead to a hemorrhagic stroke or an ischemic stroke.
This usually depends on the type of sleep apnea and the way in which it affects the brain.
Leaving OPA untreated can lead to terrible health problems in the future. The disruption in oxygen flow to the brain comes with a heightened risk of brain damage and stroke.
Thankfully, regular CPAP treatment can help relieve this condition so people can live fuller, healthier lives.
Can sleep apnea cause breathing problems?
Yes, sleep apnea can cause breathing problems, especially if it goes untreated for some time.
There are some tell-tale signs to see if you are suffering from sleep apnea. If you wake up with thick mucus, throat pain, hoarseness, or have a constant cough, it could be a sign of sleep apnea.
These symptoms are some of the most common throat problems sleep apnea sufferers experience.
People with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) are more at risk of suffering from breathing problems at night. This is partly down to the partial or complete collapse of one or more areas of the upper airway (from the nose to the tongue).
This is usually worse when people sleep on their back as their tongue can fall back into this position more easily.
When you reach deep sleep, all of your muscles naturally relax which makes you more susceptible to breathing stoppages and problems.
It has been found that a vacuum effect occurs inside the chest and throat when sleep apnea takes place.
This sucks up natural stomach juices into the esophagus and throat but this can occur in healthy sleepers too, especially after a late-night meal or snack.
What creeps up into your throat isn’t only stomach acid. It is also bile, digestive enzymes, and bacteria. All of these can cause irritation in the throat which can result in the mucus-secreting glands trying to dilute the substances.
In some cases, the stomach juices can also cause nasal congestion and inflammation.
This can result in the tongue becoming aggravated so the soft palate collapses creating a downstream vacuum effect.
Chronic acid can damage the protective chemoreceptors in your throat which detect any acid in the throat to prevent anything going into your lungs.
Known as reflux arousal, these sensors send a signal to the brain which causes you to wake up so you can swallow.
Damon Wiseley is a Registered Respiratory Therapist and Certified Pulmonary Function Technologist.