When apnea sufferers travel to, or live in, high altitude areas they may experience abnormally low levels of oxygen and a higher severity of symptoms. The Swiss researchers found that the drug Acetazolamide (sold as Diamox), a drug already used to treat mountain sickness, elevated oxygen levels overnight in apnea patients.
To establish a baseline for the study the researchers sent 51 people with sleep apnea, all of which lived in low altitude areas, to resorts in the Swiss Alps. The resorts were located at elevations as high as 8490 feet. In addition to taking Diamox each patients used CPAP apparatus. CPAP, or Continuous Positive Airway Pressure therapy, is a breathing device commonly prescribed for night-time use for apnea sufferers.
The patients took three 250mg doses of Diamox on one trip and then a placebo on the other. The patients’ average oxygen saturation overnight, a measure of sleep apnea severity, was improved among the Diamox group at 91% versus 89% in the placebo group at the highest altitude. Patients taking Diamox also stopped breathing less during the night than those in the placebo group.
Bear in mind however, this is not a miracle cure and it is not without side effects. Diamox does alter the body’s water and sodium content. Also, some patients experience side effects such as burning, numbness or tingling and some even complained about the drug’s taste. For people suffering from heart or kidney disease Diamox could lead to more serious complications. By all means, consult your doctor before taking Diamox and carefully weigh your options.
If your doctor tells you you’re healthy enough to use Diamox it could have a big impact on your sleep apnea symptoms. However, you must still use your CPAP device or oral appliance in conjunction with the Diamox treatment.
Additionally, be sure to talk to your Austin dentist before your next ski trip. Dr. Dan Matthews has a considerable amount of training in the treatment of sleep apnea and can definitely help in steering you in the right direction for a better night’s sleep and overall better health.