What is Hypopnea?

Are you aware of the term 'Hypopnea'? In simple words, it is a sleep-breathing disorder. As a result, the patient undergoes shallow breathing episodes. In other words, it is in some ways related to Sleep Apnea and is related to the same type of sleep disorder. As already mentioned, there is a decrease of airflow for at least 10 seconds in the respirations in the case of Hypopnea. It causes a thirty percent reduction in ventilation. It also leads to a decrease in oxygen saturation levels in the body, which could ultimately prove detrimental. What follows is that there is a decrease in the amount of oxygen that the red blood cells have. It is more so when owing to the second wave of the ongoing COVID 19 Coronavirus; the oxygen saturation level has become a big concern for most. Hypopnea is often also accompanied by sleep fragmentation as well.

Hypopnea compared with Apnea

Sleep Apnea, when compared to Hypopnea, is both the same type of sleep degrees. There is a difference in the degree in either case, though. While in the case of the former, there is a complete blockage of air during sleep. It is much more severe as a result. On the other hand, there is only a partial blockage of air during sleep in the latter. Both of them might occur together at the same time.

How was Hypopnea discovered?

While monitoring Sleep Apnea patients, doctors observed that they do not always have a complete air intake blockage while they sleep. Instead, at times, they might also be experiencing only a partial blockage. However, at times they also noticed a mix of both the conditions. The bad news is that if one has Hypopnea, which, as explained, is only a partial blockage of the air intake if left untreated, it could only get worse and lead to Sleep Apnea, a complete blockage.

Why must it never be left untreated?

If someone is already suffering from Hypopnea, it must in no circumstance be left untreated. Of course, the first and pervasive result is daytime sleepiness. But apart from this, there could be mood disturbances too. However, untreated Hypopnea in the long run often raises the risks of Cardio-Vascular diseases, heart attacks, stroke, diabetes, or even liver fibrosis. Thus, once it is detected, it should never be left untreated.

Hypopnea Types

Hypopnea is mainly three types. The causes of each type may vary though the symptoms may be the same. The treatment methods differ depending on the type. Let's have a look at them in further details:

Obstructive Hypopnea
It is also known as Obstructive Sleep Apnea-Hypopnea Syndrome (OSAHS). In this type, there is a partial blockage of the patient's airway. It is seen that when we sleep, the tissues and muscles of our throat usually relax. In patients suffering from this condition, the throat muscles and tissues cause narrowing in the throat. As a result, the airflow to the body gets restricted.

Central Hypopnea
It is a condition related to reduced breathing and not due to the obstruction in the throat, as mentioned in the previous type. It could be the result of a brainstem or some medication as well.

Mixed Hypopnea
Mixed Hypopnea occurs due to the previously mentioned condition, which is obstructive Hypopnea and reduced breathing. It is a condition that is more prevalent amongst patients with more severe OSAHS.

Main Symptoms of Hypopnea

As already explained, the risk factors associated with Hypopnea are many. Therefore, it is necessary to have the problem detected early and have it treated immediately. Thus, one must know the primary symptoms associated with this sleep disorder. The symptoms as a result of this health condition are many. They are the following:

  • One could feel excessive sleepiness during the active daytime.
  • Loud Snoring is sometimes a symptom associated with this sleep problem.
  • Nighttime incontinence is another common symptom that must not be ignored.
  • If one feels unrefreshed after waking from sleep, it could be associated with Hypopnea.
  • Another widespread symptom is choking during sleeping.
  • It could also lead to mood disturbances quite often.
  • Sexual dysfunction is yet another symptom associated with Hypopnea.
  • Sudden weight gain too could be a result of this health problem.

If one has any of the symptoms mentioned above consistently, one should be cautious and immediately act. As a result of this problem, it is also often noted that the partner's sleep gets disturbed.

Causes of Hypopnea

The causes depending on the type, may vary. For example, in Obstructive Hypopnea, where there is a blockage in the airflow, it could be due to throat tissue problems like hypothyroidism or obesity. Sometimes the size of the tonsils also could cause it. On the other hand, Central Hypopnea could be due to damage to the brain stem or the use of certain medications.

Hypopnea Diagnosis & Treatment

If you have the symptoms, then he would evaluate the risk factors. He could ask you and your partner questions about your sleep and general health and even examine you. He could also put you through a sleep study, which is known as polysomnography.

Once diagnosed, the treatment of the problem would vary. For example, it could include Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy, where pressurized air is supplied to the patient employing CPAP machines using a hose or a mask.

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