OSA vs CSA: The Main Differences

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that comes in two different forms; Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and Central Sleep Apnea (CSA). While both forms of sleep apnea cause a pause in breathing while you sleep, the reasoning behind this breathing interruption is what divides these two forms.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

OSA is the more common of the two types. This involves an actual blockage or collapse of the airway that causes the apnea episode. OSA is most often treated with the use of a CPAP machine, and it more commonly occurs in patients who are male, middle-aged, and/or overweight.

Central Sleep Apnea

CSA is not as common as the two types of sleep apnea. Unlike OSA, the pause in breathing is actually caused by your brain not signaling the airway muscles to take in the air you breathe while you are sleeping, thus causing apnea episodes. Anyone can get CSA, though it is more common in adults over age 65 and usually occurs as a result of a serious illness that requires medical intervention.

The differences

As mentioned above, CSA does not involve a physical blockage of the airway the way OSA does. This means that a CPAP machine is generally more effective for OSA patients (though some doctors may occasionally recommend a CPAP machine for CSA patients too). Snoring, while a very common symptom for OSA, often does not occur in CSA patients.

Both forms of sleep apnea, if left untreated, can cause fatigue and sleepiness during the daytime, morning headaches, and restless sleep overall, as the apnea episodes often tend to wake you up while sleeping. This is why seeking medical attention is vital in order to correctly diagnose which form of sleep apnea you have and how to properly treat it.  

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