Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)

Detailed Info About Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)

More than 18 million Americans are affected by obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy is used by almost 55% of the people affected by OSA, and it has proved to be effective. This article provides information on the benefits and side effects of this therapy.
Sleep apnea is a common disorder, wherein an individual experiences one or more breathing pauses or shallow breaths, while sleeping. In this condition, the airway collapses or gets blocked. The breathing pauses may last for a few seconds to minutes or they may occur 30 times or more in an hour. This condition disrupts the sleep. Obstructive, central, and mixed are the three types of sleep apnea, of which, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common. CPAP therapy has proved to be quite effective for sleep apnea.

How Does the Machine Work
CPAP machines are widely used to treat OSA. Other than OSA, they have proved to be beneficial for heart failures, coronary artery diseases, and other types of sleep apnea. The machine consists of a small machine that supplies a constant and steady air pressure, a hose, and a mask or nose piece. This machine prevents the airway from collapsing, by increasing pressure in the airway. People affected by OSA need to put on the machine every night. Initially, they may find it difficult to adjust to the machine, however, eventually they get used to it. These machines are also available in various forms. One can even carry a machine while traveling.

Who Should Use
It is recommended that people affected by OSA should use the machine only after consulting with their physician. An otolaryngologist (i.e., a doctor who specializes in ear, nose, and throat problems) examines the medical history, cardiovascular condition, airway evaluation, lifestyle, and medications administered to the person, before deciding whether the machine can be recommended to the patient. It is mandatory to consider the physician's guidelines along with the sleep study, before and while using the machine. The pressure that needs to be maintained in the airway, varies from person to person. Thus, the physician's guidance is important. A careful study of the sleeping patterns can help the physician understand the severity of the condition. This treatment is usually considered, when the following symptoms are observed:
  • Snoring loudly while sleeping
  • Sleepiness during daytime
  • Waking up frequently, during night
  • Obstructive breathing while sleeping
  • Headaches or fatigue on waking up
Benefits
This treatment has proved to be effective for OSA. Some of its benefits are:
  • Eases breathing and improves the sleep quality
  • Lowers the increased blood pressure caused due to moderate or severe sleep apnea
  • Reduces the symptoms of sleep apnea, such as daytime sleepiness
  • Effectively reduces snoring while sleeping
  • Reduces heart problems caused due to coronary artery disease
  • Improves the concentration and alertness during the daytime
Risks
Some people may experience side effects such as:
  • Nosebleeds
  • Dry nose
  • Sore throat
  • Mouth dryness
  • Headache
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Facial and eye irritation
  • Sneezing, congested and runny nose
All the aforementioned side effects are observed in the initial stage of using CPAP. There are remedies that one can follow to get rid of these side effects. Nasal irritation can be reduced with the help of a humidifier and nasal sprays that contain corticosteroids.

Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only and does not in any way attempt to replace the advice offered by an expert on the subject.