Sleep apnea, or more specifically obstructive sleep apnea is caused due to some physical obstruction of the nasal air passage. CPAP (Continuous Positive Air Pressure) applied through a nasal mask is a widely used approach, to counter the effects of this ailment. In fact, it is the most effective and popular method to overcome sleep apnea complications. However, there has been a significant lack of handling sensitivity and usage procedure on part of the patients, because of several problems with the mask. Studies have demonstrated that almost 50% of the mask users are averse to complying with the wearing steps and usage guidelines, as advised by the doctor.
CPAP Mask Problems
The most common problem experienced by CPAP mask users is the discomfort in wearing the mask. It comes in certain standard sizes and shapes, whereas every face has got different dimensions. This causes a fitting issue resulting in leakages and other such problems. The best way to get a suitable mask for yourself is to take help of the technicians, at the center, where you get these masks. Avoid hesitation and try out different masks with the technicians assistance, in order to get the best fit.
The problem with most tight-fitting masks is the irritation of the skin, due to pressure. It is beneficial if the patient uses a different size mask or simply tries a new one. There is a 'nasal pillow', which is a kind of tubular device which eases the load on the nostrils. In some cases, these pillows are used alternately along with the masks. Sometimes, the patients are not simply comfortable with the pressure. For such users, a 'ramp mask' can prove beneficial. These masks have an automatic feature of increasing the pressure as you fall asleep. A two-level air pressure machine is more suitable for people who need a reduced pressure while exhaling.
Some people are claustrophobic and averse to wearing the masks right throughout the day. Such people can afford to relax and simply try to keep it on as much as possible. A constant use, with a focus on using it for a maximum time, will definitely solve the comfort problem. Once you start working on this, the fear will die down very soon. Problems such as chronic inflammation or deviation in nasal septum may cause problems in wearing a CPAP mask. Therefore, prior treatment of these symptoms is very crucial to prevent CPAP problems.
Leakage is another common problem with these masks, but it can be dealt with some minute corrective measures, like using a chin strap. Drinking and smoking too, have a direct connection with CPAP problems. These habits loosen the tongue and the airway which increases sleep apnea. Quite often it happens that a doctor recommends a well-fitting mask, but it may not work well if the patient is a habitual smoker or consumes tranquilizers. The back portion of the airway may turn sore and cause irritation on smoking or drinking. This results in excessive snoring and the mask is rendered useless, even on constant use.
Sleeping position is also crucial for best functioning of the mask. Usually, sleeping on your back with the mask on, may cause problems. It is better to sleep on the sides, with the face close to the edges of the pillow. This allows the mask to hang off the edge and maintain its position. Dirty masks can also be a big nuisance. Many people have been detected with sores, blisters and rashes, simply due to the use of unhygienic masks. Similarly, old masks can add to the woes of the patient. These become dry and brittle with the combined effect being irritation, pain or cracking off from the edges.
Ideally, a CPAP mask should be checked for compatibility and replaced every 4-5 months. Thus, these masks in itself are not a problem, but its quality and way of usage determines its effectiveness.