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Apnea: Introduction

Apnea is a cessation or pause in breathing. Very short episodes of apnea can be normal, and a person can induce voluntary, short-term apnea by holding one's breath. However, apnea can also be a symptom of a variety of mild to serious disorders, diseases or conditions. This type of apneas is also called respiratory arrest.

Apnea can occur in any age group or population. Apnea can result from neurological disorders, infection, toxicity, trauma, malignancy, airway obstruction and other abnormal processes.

Apnea can be due to obstructive sleep apnea and apnea of prematurity. Apnea can occur in severe cases of pneumothorax, pneumonia acute bronchitis, bronchiolitis, asthma, COPD, pulmonary embolism and pulmonary edema.

In addition to the respiratory system, apnea can occur as a symptom of diseases, disorders and conditions of other body systems. For example, in the cardiovascular system, apnea can be a symptom of end-stage congestive heart failure or a severe heart attack.

In the nervous system, apnea can be a symptom of a neuromuscular disorder, such as Guillain-Barré syndrome, or a drug overdone, such as a narcotic overdose. Apnea can also result from a serious anaphylactic reaction that leads to anaphylactic shock.

Apnea can accompany end-stage shock. Apnea can also be due to a variety of traumatic causes, such as chest trauma that results in a collapsed lung or hemopneumothorax.

Depending on the cause, apnea can be short-term and disappear quickly, such as when apnea occurs when a person voluntary holds the breath. Apnea can also be chronic and happen in relatively short episodes over a long period of time, such as when it is due to sleep apnea. Apnea can also occur in sudden, severe episodes, such as apnea that happens with apnea of prematurity, airway obstruction (choking) or strangulation. For more details about causes, see causes of apnea.

Apnea often occurs in conjunction with other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Other common symptoms that can occur just before or with apnea include snoring, shortness of breath, unconsciousness, cyanosis, tachypnea, loss of pulse and (rapid breathing).

Complications of apnea can include low oxygen levels and high carbon dioxide levels in the body. This is called respiratory acidosis. If not treated immediately, this leads to respiratory failure, cardiac arrest, irreversible damage to the major organs of the body, and death.

Apnea is generally immediately diagnosed upon an examination, which reveals an absence of respiration. CPR and advanced life support measures are started immediately. This can include artificial respiration by mouth or by manually pumping oxygen into the airway by using a special bag connected to a face mask that is placed over the mouth and nose.

If spontaneous breathing does not begin promptly, a special tube is placed down the throat and airway (intubation). This tube is connected to a machine called a ventilator that continues to pump oxygen into the lungs as other advanced life support measures are continued.

If apnea is due to a foreign body, it is removed in an emergency procedure. Intubation and mechanical ventilation may still need to be performed to treat the apnea. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of apnea.

Diagnosing the underlying cause of apnea begins with taking a thorough personal and family medical history, including symptoms, and completing a physical examination. This includes listening with a stethoscope to the sounds that the lungs make. Certain lung sounds point to some underlying causes of apnea. For example, wheezing may indicate asthma, and a bubbling sound may point to congestive heart failure or pneumonia.

A noninvasive test called a pulse oximetry is generally performed. This involves clipping a painless device to the fingertip, which can measure the amount of oxygen in the blood. An arterial blood gas test is a blood test that measures the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood, as well as a number of other important markers of effective breathing. This includes diagnosing respiratory acidosis.

Making a diagnosis also includes performing a variety of other tests to help to diagnose potential underlying diseases, conditions or disorders. Depending on the suspected cause, tests can include additional blood tests, culture and sensitivity tests, pulmonary function test, EKG, and imaging tests, such as chest X-ray, CT scan, nuclear scans, and MRI.

obstructive sleep apnea is often diagnosed in a sleep center with tests called sleep studies.

A diagnosis of intermittent episodes of apnea and its cause can easily be delayed or missed. For information on misdiagnosis, refer to misdiagnosis of apnea....more »

Apnea: Misdiagnosis

Diagnosing apnea and its underlying cause may be delayed or missed people who experience most types of apnea will lose consciousness and cannot help themselves and seek care. They also may not be found quickly. In the case of obstructive sleep apnea, people are often completely unaware that have periods of apnea while they sleep. ...more misdiagnosis »

Causes of Apnea:

The following medical conditions are some of the possible causes of Apnea. There are likely to be other possible causes, so ask your doctor about your symptoms.

» Review Causes of Apnea: Causes | Symptom Checker » | Assessment Questionnaire »

Home Diagnostic Testing and Apnea

Home medical tests possibly related to Apnea:

Causes of Types of Apnea:

Review causes of types of Apnea in more specific categories:

Review causes of more specific types of Apnea:

Apnea: Symptom Checker

Listed below are some combinations of symptoms associated with Apnea, as listed in our database. Visit the Symptom Checker, to add and remove symptoms and research your condition.

Symptom Checker

Symptom Checker

Apnea Treatments

Treatment plans for apnea are individualized depending on the underlying cause, the presence of coexisting diseases, the age and medical history of the patient, and other factors. Treatment generally involves a multifaceted plan that addresses the cause, returns normal spontaneous breathing and decreases the risk of developing serious complications, such as ...Apnea Treatments

Review further information on Apnea Treatments.

Stories from Users for Apnea

Real-life user stories relating to Apnea:

Apnea: Animations

Medications or substances causing Apnea:

The following drugs, medications, substances or toxins are some of the possible causes of Apnea as a symptom. Always advise your doctor of any medications or treatments you are using, including prescription, over-the-counter, supplements, herbal or alternative treatments.

Drug interactions causing Apnea:

When combined, certain drugs, medications, substances or toxins may react causing Apnea as a symptom. Always advise your doctor of any medications or treatments you are using, including prescription, over-the-counter, supplements, herbal or alternative treatments.

  • Intramuscular Morphine and Cimetidine interaction
  • Polymyxin B and Prochlorperazine interaction - Severe apnea
  • more interactions...»

Apnea: Comorbid Symptoms

Some of the comorbid or associated medical symptoms for Apnea may include these symptoms:

Causes of General Symptom Types

Research the causes of these more general types of symptom:

Causes of Similar Symptoms to Apnea

Research the causes of these symptoms that are similar to, or related to, the symptom Apnea:

Assessment Questionnaire: Questions your doctor may ask (and why!)

During a consultation, your doctor will use various techniques to assess the symptom: Apnea. These will include a physical examination and possibly diagnostic tests. (Note: A physical exam is always done, diagnostic tests may or may not be performed depending on the suspected condition) Your doctor will ask several questions when assessing your condition. It is important to openly share any pertinent information to help your doctor make an accurate diagnosis.

It is also very important to bring an up-to-date list of all of your all medical conditions, medications including dosages, and names of numbers of any specialist you see.

Create your printable checklist here.

See Apnea Assessment Questionnaire (23 listings)

Apnea: Deaths

Read more about causes and Apnea deaths.

Misdiagnosis and Apnea

RLS sleep disorder causing night-time leg sensations often misdiagnosed: A common but relatively unknown sleep-related disorder called Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) is often misdiagnosed. The typical symptoms are more »

Chronic lung diseases hard to diagnose: Some of the chronic lung diseases are difficult to diagnose. Even the well-knowns conditions such as asthma or lung cancer often fail to more »

Apnea: Research Related Doctors & Specialists

Other ways to find a doctor, or use doctor, physician and specialist online research services:

Hospitals & Clinics: Apnea

Research extensive quality ratings and patient safety measures for hospitals, clinics and medical facilities in health specialties related to Apnea:

Apnea: Related Rare Diseases

Rare types of medical conditions and diseases in related medical categories:

Apnea: Undiagnosed Conditions

Conditions that are commonly undiagnosed in related areas may include:

Definitions of Apnea:

Transient cessation of respiration
- (Source - WordNet 2.1)

Cessation of breathing.
- (Source - CRISP)

Detailed list of causes of Apnea

The list below shows some of the causes of Apnea mentioned in various sources:

How Common are these Causes of Apnea?

This information refers to the general prevalence and incidence of these diseases, not to how likely they are to be the actual cause of Apnea. Of the 157 causes of Apnea that we have listed, we have the following prevalence/incidence information:

  • 5 causes are "very common" diseases
  • 2 causes are "common" diseases
  • 2 causes are "uncommon" diseases
  • 2 causes are "rare" diseases
  • 13 causes are "very rare" diseases
  • 143 causes have no prevalence information.

Conditions listing medical symptoms: Apnea:

The following list of conditions have 'Apnea' or similar listed as a symptom in our database. This computer-generated list may be inaccurate or incomplete. Always seek prompt professional medical advice about the cause of any symptom.

Select from the following alphabetical view of conditions which include a symptom of Apnea or choose View All.

View All A B C D E F G H I J L M N O P R S T U W Z #






















Conditions listing medical complications: Apnea:

The following list of medical conditions have Apnea or similar listed as a medical complication in our database. The distinction between a symptom and complication is not always clear, and conditions mentioning this symptom as a complication may also be relevant. This computer-generated list may be inaccurate or incomplete. Always seek prompt professional medical advice about the cause of any symptom.








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Causes of Apnea Based on Risk Factors

This information shows analysis of the list of causes of Apnea based on whether certain risk factors apply to the patient:

  • Travel - has the patient travelled recently?
  • Diabetes - history of diabetes or family history of diabetes?

    Doctors and specialists: Who should I consult about Apnea?

    Depending on the seriousness of the onset of Apnea, you may want to consult one of the following medical professionals.

    Important:In extreme cases, always seek advice from emergency services :

    Classifications of Apnea:

    Medical Conditions associated with Apnea:

    Breathing symptoms (3381 causes), Respiratory symptoms (5166 causes), Breath symptoms (3023 causes), Sleep symptoms (1476 causes), Respiratory tract symptoms (5166 causes), Throat symptoms (3410 causes), Sleeping problems (873 causes), Mouth symptoms (6864 causes), Head symptoms (10192 causes), Face symptoms (8109 causes), Nocturnal symptoms (698 causes)

    Symptoms related to Apnea:

    Breathing difficulty (2922 causes), Shortness of breath (1528 causes), Sleep apnea (36 causes), Obstructive sleep apnea, Respiration, Respiratory abnormalities, Lung dysfunction, Irregular breathing (28 causes), Brain damage (106 causes), Lung diseases

    Medical articles on signs and symptoms:

    Doctor-patient articles related to symptoms and diagnosis:

    These general medical articles may be of interest:

    Medical News summaries about Apnea

    Our news pages contain the following medical news summaries about Apnea and many other medical conditions:

    Related medical articles from our Disease Center for Apnea:

    More Ways To Research Medical Signs and Symptoms:


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