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How to Deal With and Overcome Critical CPAP Problems

Overcoming CPAP Problems
CPAP treatment requires a patient (suffering from sleep apnea) to wear a mask through which air is forced into the air pipe. Although effective, many users face a number of problems with CPAP.
SleepHearty Staff
Last Updated: May 31, 2018
CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, which is a treatment for patients suffering from sleep apnea. In sleep apnea, disruptions in breathing may cause one to lose a few breaths. This happens either due to a blockage in the respiratory tract, or because the respiratory tract collapses while breathing. CPAP prevents the air tube from collapsing by increasing air pressure in the air tube. Although it is effective in ensuring continuous breathing to patients, there are a number of problems with associated with it.

Problems

Mask of the Wrong Size
Mask problems are the major contributors to the discomfort that users of CPAP treatment face. For example, using a mask of the wrong size may cause a lot of trouble, more than most of us might have conceived. A tight mask may cause irritation to the skin, while a loose one may cause some of the air to leak out. It is best to let the technician who helps you while buying a mask know if the fit of the mask is correct or not.

Skin Irritation
As mentioned above, an ill-fitting mask may sit too tight on the skin leading the face to break out into rashes, which is one of the most common side effects of the treatment. Also, due to continued use throughout the night, the edges of the face mask that remain in touch with the skin tend to become dirty and may harbor a host of micro-organisms.

Nasal Stuffiness
Air being constantly forced into one's air way through the nasal mask causes a dry and stuffy nose. In case it does not develop a stuffy nose, there are chances that one may develop congestion or a runny nose after the start of the treatment.

Leaking Mask
This is a serious problem, because if a mask does not fit snugly on the face, it may lead to leaking of the air out of the mask. This reduces the pressure that the CPAP aims at maintaining in the air passage.

Difficulty in Tolerating Forced Air
The aim of CPAP is to maintain air pressure inside the air way. It does so by forcing air into one's wind pipe. Many people find it difficult in getting used to this forced air. Most individuals take a little time to get used to it properly.

Rigidity in Sleeping Position
Since the mask is fit on the face, turning too much may cause it to get displaced. Personnel at the sleep center may advise you to sleep on your back to prevent the mask from coming off your face. Sleeping all night on the back is very uncomfortable for most people. Also, a strong relation between the sleeping position and severity of sleep apnea has been found. Patients sleeping on their back have reported an increase in severity of sleep apnea. Although, sleeping on the side is a good solution, the problem of the mask slipping of the face still remains.

Dealing with the Problems
  • Buying a mask of the right size prevents a leaking mask, as well as any skin irritation that may be caused due to the mask fitting too tight over one's face. Sometimes adjusting the straps may help attain the right fit for the mask.
  • To avoid skin irritation, clean the face mask everyday with a non-abrasive soap or with a disinfectant. It is also a good habit to wash one's face before putting on and after removing the mask. Using certain anti-allergy ointments as prescribed by one's physician may also be useful in fighting skin irritations.
  • To overcome the problem of a stuffy nose, ensure that you buy a CPAP that comes with a heated humidifier adjustment. The moisture from the humidifier helps overcome the dryness caused by the constant flow of air into the air way.
  • In order to get used to breathing while air is being forced in, buy a machine that comes with a 'ramp' feature. This feature allows the user to start taking in air from the machine at a low pressure. As one falls asleep, the pressure gradually increases to the final level that it has been set at.
  • Full masks are a better option than the nasal masks to deal with the problem of the mask getting displaced or simply coming off during sleep. One could also invest in a mask that comes with a chin strap, that would ensure that the mask stays in place throughout the night.
The many problems with CPAP have sent many looking for alternatives to this treatment. However, many physicians still recommend it because of its effectiveness. Simple measures, like being careful while buying the mask and proper care while using it, will help one in overcoming all problems.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.