Migraine Triggers – another uncovered

The saga continues. My ongoing quest to uncover all of my potential migraine triggers revealed a new possible cause. This time, we have found a correlation with oxygen levels in my blood. During my kidney stone scope surgery last month, my urologist noticed something that gave him pause.

Whenever I have surgery, I have to be bagged because of my sleep apnea. (Or someone has to sit near my head and tell me to breathe every minute.) My vitals during this surgery revealed something new. Even while the staff was breathing for me, my PulseOx levels frequently dropped to around 80. My understanding and research tells me that this number should be above 91 or there are problems. This number describes the oxygen saturation of the blood. The lower the number, the less oxygenated your blood.

Today, I will be meeting with my primary care physician to discuss changes to my sleep therapy. Specifically, she will be switching me from a CPAP to BiPAP machine. With a normal CPAP machine, the patient receives a constant flow of air from the machine. (Some have ramp-up times etc) However, the higher the pressure on the machine, the harder it is for a patient to exhale against the air flow. When the  pressure is to great to exhale against, the patient is not able to expel enough CO2 from their system. This increased CO2 in my blood (and decreased O2) can contribute to my headaches because my brain isn’t getting enough oxygen.

In comes the BiPAP. A BiPAP machine works differently than a CPAP in that there are two pressures. The inhale pressure is typically the same as what a CPAP would deliver. On exhale though, the machine automatically reduces–significantly–the pressure of air being circulated. This decreased exhale pressure allows the patient to exhale more completely the CO2 in their lungs–thus increasing O2 levels. A BiPAP machine also measures the number of breaths taken in an hour. If this number too low, the machine will increase breaths. If the number is high, it will reduce breaths.

Given the potential for improvement with the BiPAP, I am interested to see the change it makes. As always, I will continue to journal my journey here. If my struggle can help others, I will continue to share.

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