CPAP is the most popular and effective treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. It works by pushing air into the back of the throat where throat tissues collapse during sleep. It acts by ‘splinting’ the airway open allowing for inhaling and exhaling of air. Generally, CPAP is considered a safe treatment as the primary interface uses air to treat the obstruction.
Basics of CPAP:
- A sleep apnea treatment that uses room air to keep the airway open during sleep
- The most popular treatment option for OSA
- The most effective treatment option for sleep apnea
- CPAP is safe
How Does A CPAP Machine Work
A CPAP Machine uses air pressure to keep the airway open during sleep. The CPAP machine varies in size. Most are about the size of a lunch box. They work by blowing air through a hose that is attached to a mask that attaches to the face by Velcro straps. (2)
The Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine can be adjusted allowing for different pressures. The ideal pressure is often determined during a sleep study, also known as a CPAP titration study designed to calibrate your air pressure setting. Newer sleep apnea machines use algorithms and pressure sensors to determine the best pressure.
There are several CPAP alternatives for the treatment of sleep apnea.
There are many different additional parts for PAP. Some CPAP supplies are necessary, some are optional and added for comfort. Below is a description of PAP supplies used for the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea:
Air Filter– the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure filter is important in purifying the air that comes from outside the machine entering into your nose. There are several types of air filters. Some are reusable and some are disposable. They vary in the size of the particulate that they filter out.
CPAP Hose – The hose, also known as tubing, connects the PAP machine to the mask. Hoses come in different lengths. Some hoses are heated or insulated in order to reduce condensation build up in the hose/tubing.
Humidifier – the humidifier is an optional add-on that increases the moisture of the air that is delivered through the mask. Many PAP users complain of dry mouth and dry nose while using PAP. The CPAP humidifier reduces this problem – especially in cold, dry areas with low moisture. Many humidifiers are adjustable by increasing the heat of the water tank.
CPAP mask – There are many types of C-PAP masks. There are masks that just cover the nose (nasal cpap mask), and masks that cover just the mouth (oral masks), and of course, nasal-oral masks. There are also masks that are attached to oral appliance mouth devices. Learn how to choose a CPAP Mask.
C-PAP pressure – The air pressure is usually measured in centimeters of water pressure – cm/H2O.
CPAP comfort features – Some PAP machines feature special computerized algorithms that adjust and modify the pressure. Some features like C-Flex adjust the pressure during the breathing cycle in order to improve comfort and compliance.
BiPAP or Bilevel pressure – Instead of ‘continuous positive air pressure’, Bilevel bipap uses two different pressures and inspiratory and expiratory pressure or inhale and exhale pressure. More at CPAP vs. BiPAP
Chin straps – Chin straps are used to keep the mouth closed and may be helpful for mouth breathers.
There are several manufacturers of PAP machines, masks and other equipment. Top names include: Philips (Respironics), ResMed, DeVilbiss, Fisher & Paykel, Viasys, Puritan Bennett, Apex Medical, and CareFusion. Now, there are very portable CPAP machines that can easily be transported in small bags.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) About CPAP
How is CPAP pressure titrated?
The PAP pressure is measured in cm/H2O, or centimeters of water pressure. The ideal pressure is usually determined by a technologist or by a computerized PAP machine. In the sleep center, the pressure is manually increased by a sleep technologist who is monitoring the patients’ sleep breathing. If there are hypopneas, apneas, or snoring, the pressure is increased.
There are some auto-titrating PAP machines (APAP) that use an computerized algorithm and pressure transducer sensors to eliminate obstructive events while at home.
How much does CPAP machine cost?
Average price for CPAP machine ranges from about $500 – $3000, with an estimated average price around $850. Many insurance companies cover the cost of PAP and BiPAP bilevel devices. This usually includes the mask, hose, filters, and tubing.
Is CPAP dangerous?
Generally, PAP is very safe. There are few medical treatments that are safer than room air. Although it is safe, a doctor’s prescription is often required in order to obtain PAP.
What are the complaints and side effects of CPAP?
There are few side effects with Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. The most common issues with PAP relate to the contact points where the mask touches the face. Occasionally, the skin will become irritated as a result of the constant contact and pressure of the mask. This can be alleviated by mask adjustment and/or mask replacement. Another common side effect and complaint of using PAP is dryness of the mucosal membranes of the nose, mouth, and throat. The continuous flow of air can dry out the airway. This problem can often be solved by using a heated humidifier inline with the PAP machine. The humidifier adds moisture to the air. (3) Learn more about CPAP machine side effects.
How do you get a CPAP?
You can get Continuous Positive Airway Pressure from many DME companies. Several DME, or Durable Medical Equipment providers specialize in sleep disordered breathing. You can ask your doctor, or search online, for a reputable DME that specializes in sleep apnea. Starting on CPAP
There are several online retailers of PAP. Many do not participate with insurance companies and require you to submit your bill to the insurance company to request reimbursement.
Although Continuous Positive Airway Pressure is effective at eliminating snoring, there are several alternatives to PAP for the treatment of snoring. If you currently snore, consider reading further to learn more and review our other snore resources.
There are frequent improvements in Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, BiPAP and supplies, technology. This leads to discount options for sleep apnea treatment. With the increasing demand for sleep apnea treatment, PAP manufacturers are eager to fill the demand of sleep apnea patients. Keep up to date here for new information and changes in CPAP and supplies online.
If you have been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), you may have been told you need a CPAP machine. You may be under the impression these machines are big, bulky, uncomfortable, and noisy, but these machines can improve your quality of life, and may also save your life. If you are feeling hesitant about starting on CPAP, it may help to understand what it is and how it works.
What does CPAP stand for?
CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure and is the most popular treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. CPAP works as a “splint” to prevent airway collapse and obstruction, the main causes for periods of apnea and snoring. The CPAP machine uses pressure to gently blow air into your airway, keeping it open.
The level of pressure needed varies by the patient and can be determined by a sleep professional during a sleep study.
Many CPAP machines have the option for “ramp time,” meaning that when the machine is turned on, it has the ability to start at a low pressure, and slowly increase the pressure until it reaches the patient’s prescribed level of pressure. This makes the pressure more tolerable for some people, giving them a chance to get used to the increasing pressure.
What are the main parts of the CPAP machine?
There are three basic parts that make up a CPAP machine: motor, hose, and mask.
The motor brings in air from the room to pressurize it according to your pressure setting. The air is room temperature, and some machines have a water tank to moisturize the air. The motor also includes a filter to remove impurities from the air. Motors on most machines run quietly, and will not interrupt sleep.
The pressurized air then moves from the motor, through the connected hose to the mask.
The mask, which fits snug on your face, moves the pressurized air into your airway and lungs continuously, to prevent any collapse or obstruction.
Masks come in a variety of fits and mainly come in three different types. Nasal pillows fit directly into nostrils. This can benefit patients who feel claustrophobic since it tends to feel more open and free. Nasal masks fit over the nose only, and full-face masks cover your nose as well as your mouth. Full-face masks can be beneficial to mouth breathers. It’s important to check with a professional to make sure that you have the correct type of mask, and to make sure it fits properly. Patients that have improper masks tend to be non-compliant with their CPAP therapy.
For CPAP treatment to work properly, you must stay consistent with its use and cleaning. Wear it every time you sleep, even during naps and when you travel. Also, make sure you work with your doctor on finding the right pressure and mask for you. How to Clean Your CPAP.
Some use automated CPAP cleaners that automatically clean and sanitize the sleep apnea mask and machine. Most of them do not use water, but rather use activated oxygen and/or UV light.
Many people that begin to use a CPAP Machine may start to see results right away. When worn, CPAP clears obstructions and causes most snoring to stop. Patients then feel an improvement in the quality of sleep which results in less daytime drowsiness and higher alertness during the day.
Over time CPAP may lower blood pressure and also prevent or reverse serious health conditions such as heart disease.
The air that CPAP machines deliver is generally ‘regular air’ – not concentrated oxygen. As such, CPAP is a relatively very safe medical treatment.
The air pressures acts like a ‘air splint’ to keep the airway open. During obstructive sleep apnea, the airway in the back of the throat is prone to closure during sleep. CPAP prevents this closure by pushing the throat tissues open.
CPAP is effective at treating the majority of cases of sleep apnea for patients that regularly use CPAP. The major problem with CPAP is that some individuals have difficulty tolerating CPAP. Some complain of a claustrophobia. Others report an uncomfortable air pressure sensation in the nose or throat.
For those that use the CPAP machine, the effect is often dramatic. CPAP usually eliminates the majority of obstructive breathing events. It also eliminates and attenuates snoring.
Common CPAP Machine Problems
If you have sleep apnea, you might have been prescribed CPAP by your doctor. CPAP treats sleep apnea by delivering a continuous stream of positive air pressure into the airways. The pressure keeps the airway open, which prevents pauses in breathing. A CPAP machine, which is usually no bigger than a shoebox, is attached to a mask that you wear while you sleep.
The good news is CPAP is very effective at treating sleep apnea and improving the quality of your sleep. Most people find CPAP to be comfortable and adjust well to wearing it each night while they sleep. But in some cases, CPAP causes a few unwanted side effects. Although the side effects from CPAP are not usually serious, they can be annoying. Luckily, there are several ways you can combat minor CPAP side effects.
Pressure sores are possible if your CPAP mask is too tight. The most common site of a pressure sore is the bridge of the nose. Keep in mind, a CPAP mask should be tight enough to avoid too much air from leaking out around it. But if it is too tight, it can be uncomfortable.
Solution: When you first start using CPAP, you’ll be fitted for a mask to determine what size and style works best. Make sure you select something that feels comfortable. It some cases, the solution may be as simple as using a different size or style of mask. In addition, nasal pads are available that cushion the nose and help prevent irritation. The pads are usually made of a gel material and are placed on the bridge of the nose under the mask.
Dry Mouth or Nose
The continuous flow of air delivered by a PAP machine can be drying. Waking up each morning with a dry mouth or nose can be irritating. But there is usually an easy fix. (4)
Solution: Using heated humidification with your CPAP machine adds warm moisture to the air and eases dryness. CPAP machines differ by manufacturer. Some machines have built-in humidifiers. In other cases, you’ll attach a specific humidifier. Use distilled or sterile water when filling the humidifier.
If your mask is not fitted properly or if you don’t put it on correctly, it can leak around the edges. The leak is not harmful, but it could prevent the prescribed levels of pressure from being delivered. Plus, a leaky mask could be noisy, which may bother your bedmate.
Solution: If you notice air leaks, you may not have a properly fitted mask. Also, be sure you’re adjusting the mask right when you put it on at night. One option to consider is switching from a face mask that covers both the nose and mouth to a nasal mask. A nasal mask just covers the nose, which means there is less surface area to cover and less potential for leaks.
Wearing a mask that covers your mouth and nose can make some people feel claustrophobic, especially since it is something you’re not used to. If you feel anxious, it can be difficult to get comfortable and fall asleep. (5)
Solution: If the mask you’re using makes you feel confined, consider using a nasal mask. If that does not do the trick, you can try nasal pillows. Nasal pillows are small, soft prongs that go into your nose. Your nose or mouth are not covered.
Occasionally the air that is supposed to go into your lungs may go into your stomach instead. Excess air in the belly can lead to bloating and gas. No one wants to wake up belching.
Solution: If you feel stomach bloating is a problem and think it’s due to PAP and not what you ate, talk with your doctor about slightly decreasing the pressure setting on your CPAP.
Getting quality sleep is important for physical and mental health and if you have obstructive sleep apnea, a CPAP Machine may be the answer for you. If you cannot seem to tolerate wearing it, talk with your doctor to make sure you have the right pressure and fit. Your doctor can also offer advice to make it more tolerable.
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