If you have sleep apnea and were prescribed a CPAP machine, you may have noticed some of the side effects that come along with wearing it. Recognizing what these problems are can help you to find solutions so you can wear your CPAP comfortably and get a good night’s sleep.
Work with your CPAP supply professional to alleviate or prevent some of the problems that may be associated with CPAP use.
Common CPAP Machine Side Effects:
This is the medical term for eating or swallowing air. This generally occurs when the CPAP pressure is too high for you and can result in gas and bloating.
Top CPAP Machines
DreamStation CPAP with Heated Tube and Humidifier
Respironics DreamStation Go CPAP Machine
DreamStation CPAP Pro with Humidifier
Philips DreamStation CPAP Pro
Wearing a CPAP machine can sometimes cause discomfort when trying to sleep. The mask can sometimes feel bulky and constrictive, and the hose can get in the way of trying to sleep in positions other than your back. Discomfort can also sometimes be felt while exhaling if the pressure is too high.
Many people feel claustrophobic while wearing a CPAP mask since the mask fits snug around your nose, or around your mouth and nose if you have a full-face mask.
If your CPAP mask does not fit properly or isn’t properly cleaned, it can cause leakage. When there is a leak, your CPAP machine most likely isn’t reaching its set pressure.
Dry, stuffy nose or nosebleeds
Having a dry or stuffy nose is a common side effect of a CPAP machine since air is being blown into your airway. Nosebleeds can also occur.
Skin irritations such as a rash or pressure sores can occur since a CPAP mask fits snug against your face and is worn in the same area night after night.
Dry mouth is common for those with a full-face mask, and also for those who wear a nasal mask but are mouth breathers.
If a CPAP machine isn’t properly cleaned on a routine basis, infections, such as lung or sinus infections can occur.
Although headaches are not a common side effect of using a CPAP machine, they can occur if the pressure is set to high or you have a blockage in your sinuses.
Even though there are side effects related to using a CPAP machine, it’s important to be compliant with continuing to wear it. Not using your machine as prescribed can cause larger, more severe health problems such as fatigue, high blood pressure, heart arrhythmias, heart failure, heart attack, or stroke.
If you’re experiencing any of these side effects from wearing your CPAP machine, don’t give up on it yet. There are solutions to these common problems. Interestingly, having untreated sleep apnea is also associated with headaches.
How to Prevent CPAP side effects
- Clean your CPAP regularly. Make sure that your CPAP is clean and make it a habit to clean your mask, tubing, and water chamber regularly. The CPAP mask and humidifier chamber should be cleaned daily with mild soap and water. On top of this, once a week you should soak all of the parts in vinegar and water, using one part vinegar to three parts water. There are also sanitizing machines you can purchase if you are having trouble staying on top of this cleaning schedule. You can use a CPAP cleaner to sanitize your machine.
- Avoid using oils, makeup, or oily moisturizer on your face before applying your mask. These can build up on the mask if not cleaned daily.
- Make sure you have the proper mask. CPAP masks are available as nasal masks, full-face masks, and nasal pillows since one type of mask isn’t suitable for everyone. Some factors to consider are if you are a mouth breather, have claustrophobia, the position you sleep in, or your set pressure. These should be discussed with your doctor before choosing which type of mask you should be wearing.
- Check your humidifier. If you’re having problems with respiratory irritation, dry mouth, dry nose, or nosebleeds, check your humidifier to make sure it’s working properly. Also, as previously mentioned, make sure you’re cleaning it regularly.
- Try switching to heated tubing. Heated tubing warms the air traveling through the CPAP and can improve its temperature. The tube, filter and mask are part of the CPAP supplies.
- You may need sinus medication. If your sinuses are blocked, talk to your sleep doctor to see if you need a sinus medication to let your CPAP work more effectively.
- Try using mask barriers. Creating a barrier between the mask and your skin can help with skin irritations such as sores and rashes. There are barriers you can purchase and are sometimes made with gel or cloth. A hypoallergenic tape can also sometimes work to create a barrier.
- Make sure you’re strap is secured properly. If your mask is strapped on too tight it can cause skin irritations. If it is too loose, it can cause a leak.
Adjusting CPAP pressure to Avoid CPAP Side Effects
- Make sure you’re using the correct pressure. Make sure the pressure on your CPAP machine is the pressure that was prescribed to you. If it is and you’re still having trouble with discomfort while exhaling, swallowing air, or feel the pressure may be too high, you may want to talk to your doctor to see if your pressure setting needs to change.
- You may need a new pressure if you’ve gone through recent lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking or drinking, or have had changes in weight. Sometimes improvements to lifestyle can improve sleep apnea and you may actually need a lower pressure. If any of these changes have occurred you should be reevaluated by your doctor. Sometimes Bipap pressure is used to alleviate symptoms. The main difference between BiPAP and CPAP is that BiPAP uses two pressures while CPAP uses one.
- Try using the ramp on your machine if you have not already done this. When you use the ramp, your CPAP machine starts out at a lower pressure and gradually increases until it reaches your set pressure. This is designed for your comfort and lets you get used to wearing your mask each time you put it on.
CPAP Side Effect: Lungs
Some patients on CPAP complain of a burning sensation in the lungs. This is often a result of dry or cold air being inhaled from the CPAP. This might be reduced by using warm humidification.
CPAP Side Effect: Dizziness
Some complain of dizziness after wearing CPAP. While the mechanism for this symptom is not clearly known, some believe that this might be due to the pressure change in the middle ear. The Eustachian tube connects from the oral cavity to the ear. The sensors for balance are located in this area. The symptom should be short-lived if due to CPAP.
CPAP Side Effect: Shortness of Breath
The complaint of shortness of breath is usually sensorial – a sensation of not getting enough air. A functional CPAP never reduces the amount of air that can be inhaled.
Always make sure to talk to your doctor before making any changes to your CPAP routine. Since the side effects of sleep apnea outweigh the side effects of using a CPAP machine, it’s important to find a solution so you can wear your CPAP comfortably.
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