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New member confused by oximeter readings
#1
Hi everyone.

i'm glad to have found this fantastic community, but am very much new to the whole sleep apnea problem, and am not entirely sure whether I should be here or not.

I've been suffering with Atrial Fibrillation for sometime now, and have been desperately trying to figure out what may be causing it, and recently stumbled across the this condition called Sleep Apnea. Upon looking into the symptoms I realised I do suffer with quite a few of them, namely snoring, anxiety, sleepy during the day, poor memory, high blood pressure, frequent urination during the night and frequently waking during the night.

I visited my GP a couple of weeks ago, and he basically wasn't interested, so I thought I'd look into ways of trying to work out for myself if I may actually have the condition. I came across oximeters, so purchased a Contec CMS-50E. The first night I used it the readings the next day showed that my SPO2 levels during the night were mainly between 90 and 94%, but did at one stage drop to 88%. However, on subsequent nights the readings have been all over the place, and effectively showing that my SPO2 is supposedly constantly dropping off the bottom of the scale to as low as 40%. When zooming in to the 1 minute view it shows my SPO2 constantly dropping right down to 40% and then straight back up again, time and time again.

So I'm confused as to whether the oximeter is giving erroneous results, or whether the readings are correct and I therefore need to be worried.

Any help would be very much appreciated.
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#2
First, Welcome to the forum!

The oximeter is a good start but not the gospel. I use oximeters and have found erroneous readings occur when they get bumped or moved during sleep, or even rapid hand movement. I would suggest that you record an awake session for comparison to your sleep recordings. I would ask your GP for a referral to a Pulmonologist or sleep doctor in your area. Also, I would take both printouts to these visits.

Hopefully, others on this forum will have better advice than mine. Hang in there and if you feel something is amiss and don't give up.

Good Luck!
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#3
Take screenshots of the pulseox data and post them. If you're not familiar with doing this, imgur is a convenient place to start. Be sure and show a close zoom on the suspicious spikes down, as well as the longer term drops.

Your description sounds like a classical description of when the pulseox is getting bad readings due to movement or some such. If you look carefully, there may be areas where the trace turns gray.

There are some online questionnaires about sleep apnea.

A pulseox may show apnea, but, unfortunately, sleep apnea doesn't necessarily always show up on a pulseox. Some people "wake up" enough to start breathing again before their O2 drops enough to show up.

Unfortunately, a lot of doctors are criminally ignorant about sleep apnea.

How old and how overweight are you? Many doctors think apnea only affects the old or fat, which, unfortunately, isn't true.

You may very well need to find a new doctor, perhaps an actual sleep specialist, but beware, a lot of them are pretty clueless, too.

There are some home sleep apnea tests you can order online. They're not as good as a "real" sleep test with EEG leads and such, but they're more info than a simple pulse ox. I haven't got a lot of good info on how good they are.
Get the free SleepyHead software here.
Useful links.
Click here for information on the main alternative to CPAP.
If it's midnight and a DME tells you it's dark outside, go and check it yourself.
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#4
Thanks for the replies all.

I have tried to post images but I just keep getting a message saying 'You are not allowed to post images in this forum'. I'm usually fine with posting images on forums, so am confident I know what I'm doing, but that's the message I get.

The drops to 40% I'm seeing are constant, so if it is because of movement then I must be moving constantly. And no I'm not seeing grey areas on the chart.

I did ask my GP for a referral to a sleep specialist, but he wasn't interested. He was only interested in giving me a steroid spray to help with the snoring.

I'm 44 years old, 6ft tall and 187lbs. So I'm a little overweight, but not by a great deal.
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#5
(01-25-2015, 09:56 AM)GaryM Wrote: Thanks for the replies all.

I have tried to post images but I just keep getting a message saying 'You are not allowed to post images in this forum'. I'm usually fine with posting images on forums, so am confident I know what I'm doing, but that's the message I get.

The drops to 40% I'm seeing are constant, so if it is because of movement then I must be moving constantly. And no I'm not seeing grey areas on the chart.

I did ask my GP for a referral to a sleep specialist, but he wasn't interested. He was only interested in giving me a steroid spray to help with the snoring.

I'm 44 years old, 6ft tall and 187lbs. So I'm a little overweight, but not by a great deal.

Just post the link as text. I think it will let you do that, but we may have to cut and paste to get the link to work. If it doesn't let you post it, leave http and www off of the link.

You should get pic/link posting privileges soon. Unfortunately, the spammers make us do that sort of stuff.

Gee, a steroid spray for snoring, but he won't refer you to a specialist, even with afib?

GET
ANOTHER
DOCTOR

Gee, given "namely snoring, anxiety, sleepy during the day, poor memory, high blood pressure, frequent urination during the night and frequently waking during the night, and afib," and no referral, even without the steroid spray,

GET
ANOTHER
DOCTOR!!!

If he doesn't kill you with apnea, he's going to miss something else.

Do you need a referral to see a specialist with your insurance? If not, just find a sleep doc, but seriously, get another GP.

Are you in an HMO, by the way? That would help explain this.

BTW, any doctor, even dentists, can prescribe a CPAP in the US, I think.
Get the free SleepyHead software here.
Useful links.
Click here for information on the main alternative to CPAP.
If it's midnight and a DME tells you it's dark outside, go and check it yourself.
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#6
Thanks archangle.

I live in the UK, and although I have private health cover I still need a referral from a GP in order to see a sleep specialist, hence the problem. You're right though, I probably just need to see another GP.

It seems that even if I just add the links as text it converts them straight to clickable links, so it still won't let me do it as I don't yet have 8 posts. If you just add http:// to the beginning of each of the following though, that should work.

Here are is a direct link to an hour of the SPO2 report...

i6.photobucket.com/albums/y201/Biggow/SPO2%2025th%20-%201-1.jpg

and one to a 1 minute snapshot...

i6.photobucket.com/albums/y201/Biggow/SPO2%201%20minute%20view-1.jpg

and one to the summary report...

i6.photobucket.com/albums/y201/Biggow/Summary%20Report%2025th-1.jpg
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#7
You'll need to secure that oximeter better in order to get reliable readings;

[Image: fypv9c.jpg]

I use the blue masking tape but lots of other types will do.
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#8
yeah - second image spike shows obvious mal-function or mis-read, and taping will definitely help. The underlying real data does not look at all bad.

i6.photobucket.com/albums/y201/Biggow/SPO2%2025th%20-%201-1.jpg
[Image: JR8G4ny.jpg]
i6.photobucket.com/albums/y201/Biggow/SPO2%201%20minute%20view-1.jpg
[Image: xgunI5c.jpg]
Dedicated to QALity sleep.
You'll note I am listed as an Advisory Member. I am honored to be listed as such. See the fine print - Advisory Members as a group provide advice and suggestions to Apnea Board administrators and staff concerning Apnea Board operation and administrative policies. Membership in the Advisory Member group should not be understood as in any way implying medical expertise or qualification for advising Sleep Apnea patients concerning their treatment.
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#9
(01-25-2015, 11:10 AM)GaryM Wrote: Thanks archangle.

I live in the UK, and although I have private health cover I still need a referral from a GP in order to see a sleep specialist, hence the problem. You're right though, I probably just need to see another GP.

It seems that even if I just add the links as text it converts them straight to clickable links, so it still won't let me do it as I don't yet have 8 posts. If you just add http:// to the beginning of each of the following though, that should work.

Here are is a direct link to an hour of the SPO2 report...

God, I hate photobucket and their stupid insecure javascript pages. Try imgur.

However, those are clearly glitches. Notice the gray section in the BPM line. Also SpO2 just doesn't drop that fast.

I find the oximeter works OK for me without tape if I put it on my thumb, but tape works better for some people.

Apart from the glitches, none of those looks significant.

Unfortunately, while a pulsox can give a really strong indication of apnea, sometimes people with apnea don't show anything on a pulseox because the wake up enough to start breathing before their O2 drops enough to show up.
Get the free SleepyHead software here.
Useful links.
Click here for information on the main alternative to CPAP.
If it's midnight and a DME tells you it's dark outside, go and check it yourself.
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#10
Hi GaryM,
WELCOME! to the forum.!
Hopefully, you can find another doc who is more interested in your care.
Much success to you.
trish6hundred
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