How Peripheral Neuropathy Can Be Caused By Sleep Apnea

January 4, 2011

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?

7 Responses to “How Peripheral Neuropathy Can Be Caused By Sleep Apnea”

  1. Dr. Deb on January 4th, 2011 2:27 pm

    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. Rod on January 8th, 2011 7:02 pm

    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. James F. Gilvarry on December 12th, 2011 3:03 pm

    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.
    James F. Gilvarry

  4. Thomas Wallace on April 13th, 2012 1:50 am

    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. Thomas Wallace on April 13th, 2012 1:51 am

    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. Barry on August 28th, 2012 1:52 am

    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. Steven Park on August 28th, 2012 7:21 am

    Barry, thanks for your comments. Good luck going forward.

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