How Peripheral Neuropathy Can Be Caused By Sleep Apnea

Here’s a study that shows how obstructive sleep apnea can cause peripheral neuropathy. The authors studied nerve function in the arms of patients with sleep apnea and found abnormal conduction measures which improved after CPAP treatment. They also mentioned that chronic intermittent hypoxia is a major aggravator of nerve conduction abnormalities. This could explain various numbness and tingling complaints that are rampant in the sleep-breathing disorders population. It could also explain Raynaud’s phenomenon, where your hands, feet, or other distal extremities can feel cold. Anecdotally, I’ve had a handful of patients tell me that their cold or numb hands and feet got better after treating obstructive sleep apnea.

Since it’s well known that diabetics have similar issues with peripheral neuropathy, and obstructive sleep apnea is a major risk factor for insulin resistance and elevated sugar levels, could it be possible that an underlying sleep-breathing process could also aggravate neuropathies in diabetics? Additionally, if peripheral nerves are affected, why can’t it affect your brain’s nerves as well?

How many of you with sleep apnea have peripheral neuropathy? If so, did it ever go away after sleep apnea treatment?

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15 thoughts on “How Peripheral Neuropathy Can Be Caused By Sleep Apnea

  1. yes, I think I mentioned that my peripheral neuropathy seems to have gone away with treating my SBD. what I am starting to wonder about is if SBD can cause neuropathic pain also. my sciatica which started at 8 months pregnant and finally went somewhat dormant after a 40 lb weight loss, started coming back as I gained weight, (half of it back now) but now seems to be gone, after SBD tmt. I suspect there is a relationship, just as there is a correlation to migraine which is a neurologic event in the brain. and I can tell a difference between sleep deprivation from CPAP which doesn’t work for me, and not using anything which does something bad to my brain and it takes a week or more to recover from it, similar to what Dr. Mack Jones describes in his book.

    I found a study a while back about how migraine can be triggered by hypercoagulation; this may be a mechanism as we know SBD can cause hypercoag. this might also be the mechanism for Raynauds. my husband has this and I had read about using Ginkgo for it; he is much better on the Ginkgo! well Ginkgo has blood thinning properties. also makes you wonder about all the things that Aspirin is good for. like, WHY is aspirin so helpful? because it reverses some of the negative effect of SBD?

  2. The event that led to my diagnosis of sleep apnea may have been caused by peripheral neuropathy, although nothing was demonstrated during the various tests I had – B12 levels were normal. However, since getting effective CPAP treatment, there have been no further events. Also, my migraines have almost completely stopped, I don’t wake up to use the bathroom as often, I am able to kneel for much longer than I did before. I also don’t have a feeling of faintness that I used to get occasionally after rising after kneeling for a short period. I think that there are a lot of things that were affected by the hypoxia that was definitely present during my sleep study!

    To Dr. Deb: I prefer to take Ginkgo that aspirin – aspirin is a prostaglandin inhibitor that may be important for other reasons. At least Ginkgo has not been shown to have any major side effects. There are few studies demonstrating benefits, but that is because controlled trials are not easy to do, and there is little money for the pharmaceutical companies in running them!

  3. Dear Dr Park,
    You are an expert on Sleep Apnea and I am trying to get your book ” Sleep Interrupted” . I have sleep apnea and I have noticed if I don’t use my mask all night I wake up around 8AM and my feet feel hot, When I touch them they feel normal but I still have a the feeling of hot sweaty feet. The bottom of my feet at this time feel like there is a layer of dead skin on the bottoms. To me this feels like neuropathy. Could it be caused by my poor attempts to use my CPAP machine and mask? Please send me an E- mail to the above web site with your professional opinion.
    Sincerely,
    James F. Gilvarry

  4. Dr I have severe peripheral neuropathy which I wake up with Every morning with pain in m shoulders, arms, legs,feet, and get carpel tunnel syndrome of both wrists for about thirty minutes. I have diabetes and sleep apnea. Is it possible that my Cpap is not working, or I am having a heart problem.
    VL have a rib cage which hurts in the morning.

  5. Dr I have severe peripheral neuropathy which I wake up with Every morning with pain in m shoulders, arms, legs,feet, and get carpel tunnel syndrome of both wrists for about thirty minutes. I have diabetes and sleep apnea. Is it possible that my Cpap is not working, or I am having a heart problem.

  6. I had severe Peripheral Neuropathy and still have lingering symptoms of it…don’t know if it ever will be completely healed with CPAP treatment. Before being diagnosed with OSA I thought I had M.S. …due to all my symptoms…17 symptoms in all!

    Since using CPAP (to all out there…make sure you get a CPAP with “C-flex”) the majority of my Peripheral N. has been eliminated. Prior to CPAP I had daily episodes of extreme tingling in hands and feet. Now I’ve only occasionally felt some tinging in feet. I’ve only been on CPAP for about 2 & 1/2 weeks.

    I have a lot of healing to do still…..significant cognitive impairment, depression, anxiety, brain fog, muscle weakness….all due to severe Obstructive Sleep Apnea.

  7. My fathers feet feel icey cold a few minutes into wearing the cpap. As soon as he switches it off they go back to normal after a few minutes. Why is this happening?

  8. I used to have a big need to urinate in the middle of the night and when waking up. When I stood up my feet used to tingle when walking, and that sensation lasted for half an hour or so after getting up. Once I started with CPAP my need to urinate in the middle of the night dissapeared as well as the tingle in the feet.

  9. Two years ago I had myocarditis or pericarditis (T-24m).
    3 months after that developed plantar fascitis (T-18m).
    1 year ago I was dx with sleep apnea and had 02 levels dipping as low as 80% (T-12). So I was put on a CPAP device.
    Within 3 months my plantar significantly improved (T-9).
    Been having cold fingers and toes since heart issue (T-24).
    Stopped the PAP machine three months ago as I had moved house and felt better so thought i would try and see if I could get off it.
    Slowly developed pins and needles in both hands (T-3m) and recently extending into forearm and arm pain (T-1m).
    Just diagnosed with mild/moderate carpal tunnel.
    Two nights on CPAP and I feel so much better generally and my hands/arms are not waking me up with pain every two hours. I am still getting tingling but not the terrible aches. I also had steroid injections which may have also helped so it is not definitive.
    So yes, I tick all these boxes.2

  10. My Neuropathy didn’t completely go away after treating my sleep apnea, but it did improve drastically. Just recently I went a few days without using my CPAP and it reaffirmed to me the positive affect using it has had on my condition.

  11. I”m a 27 y/o male with severe OSA. I was placed on BiPap for 2 years with little improvement and recently had a tonsillectomy, UPPP, and septoplasty performed with little improvement following the surgery. I also have hypertension and insomnia. Also some type of unknown neuromuscular condition for years before the sleep apnea diagnosis, that causes me to have muscle twitching abnormal nerve sensations like tingling and shooting sensations and tight muscles. I’ve had an extensive workup at a prestigious hospital for the neurological symptoms including Emgs, they’re always normal. My symptoms are worse on days I sleep worse I’m wondering if this is related

  12. I have myasthenia graves and small fiber neuropathy (John who posted on 10-31-2017 look into SFN) plus Raynaud’s and a connective tissue disorder like lupus that has not been diagnosed ( my rheumatologist is not sure what’s happening). I’ve also been having parathyroid issues and have been unable to lose weight. I’ve been on a COAP machine for 10 days and my pain level that is usually high is almost non-existent. I stopped falling asleep everywhere at about day five of using the CPAP. I still have a foggy mind when trying to recall words and put together sentences, but everything seems brighter. I still do get muscle cramps from my SFN. Tissue samples were taken of my legs and I have less than half of the normal amount of nerve endings. I hope this reverses over time with use of the CPAP. I also need my mind back.

  13. HI collegue

    I am company doctor and I was not able to work for 7 years and treated for burnout /depression.
    I had a numb feeling in my nose, palatum and chin after using antidepressiva . In 2013 i was diagnosed with severe OSAS, After 4 years cpap i am almost normal regardig functioning but the numb feeling only partly recovered. I have a little gnostic feeling back.
    In my practice I have discovered many patients with OSAS since then.
    Marco Chin Kwie Joe, companydoctor in Bonaire dutch antillies

  14. Significant neuropathy in left hand kept me awake. Had a sleep study and have mod to severe sleep apnea. After 6 months still waiting for CPAP from the VA. BUT I did get an oxygen conentrator for night. Better then nothing. The neuropathy gone first night with oxygen. One night I pushed the cannula off anode had neuropathy pain. No question about it to me the oxygen eliminated my neuropathy.