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Can the brain damage be reversed?

Joined: Sat Sep 13, 2008 1:34 pm
Posts: 3
Mon May 18, 2009 6:43 am Post
I'm fairly sure I have serious sleep apnea, and am waiting to see a specialist about it. I think I've had it for at least a year, perhaps more. I'm confident and optimistic that if it gets diagnosed and I start on treatment, such as CPAP, that my symptoms will improve and my sleep will be better.

My major concern is that I've read that sleep apnea causes brain damage (makes sense, lack of oxygen to the brain, etc). I am a PhD physicist, and I rely on my mental ability for my job. My ability at work has been noticeably impaired over the last year, though this certainly could be caused by sleep deprivation as opposed to something permanent.

Does anyone know whether brain damage arising from sleep apnea can be reversed? Are there specific programs that the doctors can prescribe to regain brain functionality? For example, I know memory games can improve the mental functioning of the elderly. Is it common for the apnea doctors to look for brain damage? Is a brain damage study typically covered by health insurance?
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Joined: Thu Feb 19, 2009 7:00 pm
Posts: 70
Mon May 18, 2009 8:22 am Post
Hi mrgrey,

Don't know if a study is covered by insurance...would guess it's probably not.

I don't have any clear cut answers for you except to say that the body is an amazing healing machine. If the heart can create it's own bypass around a clogged artery, then shurly the brain can reroute it's pathways too. You might want to google neuroplasticity and read up on that. They know that with the right therapy that stroke victims and people with traumatic brain injuries can recover through this theory.

Hang in there and welcome to the forum.


Joined: Mon Jan 05, 2009 11:15 pm
Posts: 16
Location: Chicago
Mon May 18, 2009 12:19 pm Post
Welcome MrGrey, of course a sleep study will determind if you have OSA , but in the mean time you can check the sticky about the studies on the cardiovascular affects of OSA by Vicky , hope this helps , Dan

Joined: Tue May 31, 2005 8:21 pm
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Mon May 18, 2009 1:12 pm Post
Hi MrGrey (from one PhD to another it should be Dr :-D )

All of us need to be able to think whether it is flipping a hundred burgers at once and pulling fries out of boiling grease or doing complex calculations and planning experiments so we are all in the same boat as you. There are 10 articles in this sticky above which directly address the issue of brain damage and structural changes in OSA and many more which probably address it also:

The Cardiovascular and Metabolic Effects of OSA.

I am sure the level of damage depends on many variables, the duration, extent and frequency of hypoxias, the length of time before diagnosis, etc. As umpwidow said, our bodies have amazing abilities to regenerate so even though some of the articles above are discouraging, I would not count anything out.

If I were you, this is how I would progress. It is highly likely that your cognitive impairments will greatly improve after you are treated. The sleep disruption itself (and probably some of the hypoxia too), puts all untreated OSA patients into what you mentioned and what is commonly referred to as "brain fog". I had severe OSA for probably 10 years before I was diagnosed. My work and research involves a great deal of mental acuity as well and I do just fine. Get treated and once your treatment is going well and you are 100% compliant, even when you nap, NAP with your PAP we say, give it a few months and see how things change. Don’t expect big changes all at once; look for the little ones starting with not feeling so tired in the afternoon or having headaches when you wake up with you get them, etc. Your body has been under assault for many months and it can take several months to heal.

Certainly insurance will pay for brain imaging/function studies if there is a cause for concern about cognitive function. If, after several months, you are still concerned and feel that your cognitive function is not where it should be, then see a neurologist to address it. But don’t put the cart before the horse, get treated first and be positive and encouraged by the improvements that you will without doubt see.

Keep us posted!!


Joined: Sun Jul 30, 2006 10:37 am
Posts: 382
Location: Bergen County NJ
Mon May 18, 2009 11:20 pm Post
Don't assume there is brain damage, more likely brain function impairment due to oxygen deprivation or sleep deprivation. Don't worry so much, try getting treatment for the OSA and see how you feel after a few months. You could be lucky and really notice the difference. Otherwise you will work on all the other things which improve the healthiness of one's life. Lots of luck, it will be OK more likely than not.

Joined: Thu Oct 09, 2008 11:59 pm
Posts: 233
Tue May 19, 2009 12:29 am Post
First time I heard about brain damage : ) Think about the new CPR guidelines they are going to come out with. No breathing, 100 chest compressions per minute. If that won't give you brain damage not much will.

Joined: Thu Apr 17, 2008 7:38 am
Posts: 131
Tue May 19, 2009 7:57 am Post
untreated, undiagnosed osa was giving me some pretty wild migraine auras--blurry vision in one eye, weird horror house type stuff. the theory behind migraine auras is oxygen deprivation. my auras improved 75% immediately with cpap. the remaining 25% took a little time. I believe there must ahve been some "brain healing" that happened. I still get auras from time to time, but nothing like before. I've been on cpap for a little over a year.

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