Anatomy, weight, and age may not be the only OSA culprits, according to Australian scientist Danny Eckert and his team. New research in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine (click here for abstract) uncovers what Eckert calls “brand new problem areas.”
As summarized by several media outlets, additional causes of OSA include muscle responsiveness in sleep, waking too easily, and a response to carbon dioxide that builds up while asleep. Eckert, a former Harvard researcher now at Neuroscience Research Australia, believes the discovery could lead to new treatments for people who suffer from OSA.
“We might be able to treat these rather than focus solely on the problem of a collapsing airway, as we have until now,” Eckert said to reporters. “That’s a pretty exciting development that takes treatment in a totally new direction.”
The study suggests that in future more than half of sleep apnea patients could be treated with medication. The Conclusions section in the abstract state: “This study confirms that OSA is a heterogeneous disorder. Although Pcrit-anatomy is an important determinant, abnormalities in nonanatomic traits are also present in most patients with OSA.”
Australasian Sleep Association president Nick Antic told Australian media that the finding proves the disease is far more complex than thought. Antic also said that potential new treatments could take years to reach patients.