Common Issues With CPAP Usage and the Knowledge to Overcome Them

The number one issue for patients who have been diagnosed with sleep apnea is that of non-compliance. In layman terms, this means that the main issue people, who have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, have to deal with is the fact that they likely will not follow through and use the treatment. The immediate question then is why? If addressing sleep apnea will improve multiple aspects of a patient’s life, what stops them from following through? The number one reason is comfort. Often instead of adjusting to an undesirable situation with a CPAP mask or machine, a patient will simply give up and return back to untreated sleep patterns.

If a patient is able to change the undesirable situation, he/she will be more likely use the CPAP system. But often they do not know how or what to adjust. These problems are straight forward and have immediate remedies which can be put in place. There are two primary groups of problems that a patient can encounter – Mask problems and lack of comfort attachments.

Mask Problems

Mask problems are focused around either: using a mask that is contrary to the method of breathing by the patient, or not having the right size mask. Each of us has a particular method of breathing while we are sleeping – either through the mouth or through the nose. Often a patient can adjust their breathing method to fit the needs of the mask. Many oral breathers have no issue using nasal masks and can adjust relatively quickly. Still, a small percentage cannot adjust and should modify their mask type to fit their needed air path.

CPAP mask manufactures have produced a number of different mask set-ups to address the multiple styles of breathing. For those who breathe through their mouth, either an oral or full face mask would be appropriate. A full face mask allows for some air to also travel through the nasal passage as is typical. For those who breathe through their nose, two types of masks are available. Nasal CPAP mask typically cover the entire nose while Nasal Pillow (or Cannula) CPAP masks provide covering over simply the nostril holes. Again, personal comfort dictates which is best for the patient. Deviated Septum Self Test

Using the wrong size mask can produce a number of symptoms. If the mask is too tight, it may cause irritation on the skin. The irritation can lead to further skin issues if continued and can dirty the mask excessively which could allow for bacteria growth over time. It is important to work with the respiratory technician to determine the proper size of mask to use to limit irritation. If the irritation persists then daily cleaning/disinfecting of both face and mask is recommended as well as consulting one’s physician to determine if a certain ant-allergy cream or ointment may be needed.

If the CPAP mask is too loose while wearing, it will cause some of the air to leak out. A leaking mask can cause discomfort on the skin where the air passes (becoming cold or irritated). A leak also decreases the efficiency of the CPAP unit by decreasing the effective pressure making it to the body. The best remedy for this situation is to work with the respiratory technician to determine properly adjusted fit. Keep in mind that a mask may appear to be fitting properly at the start of sleep, but during shifting in the bed the mask may move and no longer be properly in place. This is an important reason to find a mask type which is compatible with the patient’s sleeping pattern.

Comfort equipment

Another group of issues seen by CPAP patients can be addressed with complementary equipment to the CPAP system. Nasal stuffiness can occur due to the constant air being forced into one’s airway. Congestion or a runny nose may occur after CPAP treatment. This issue can be reduced with the use of a heated humidifier. Often this is a standard component to a CPAP machine but can be optional on occasion. The humidifier is added to the system and consists of a container of water which has the air pass over before going to the mask. By using a heated humidifier, water vapor is allowed to enter the nose and body with the air and keeps vital pathways moist.

Sometimes a patient has a difficulty tolerating forced air into their body. They may feel uncomfortable due to the instant increase in pressure on their airway. Today’s CPAP machines provide a ramping feature which allows a body to slowly adjust to an increase in pressure over a period of minutes. It is important to be familiar with the CPAP machine enough to utilize this feature.

One last issue that is commonly seen is that of hose entanglement or separation. This occurs when, during movement during the night, the air supply hose is separated from the mask or is tangled with either CPAP or body parts. This can lead to loss of CPAP pressure or even damage of the equipment. A number of options are available to control hose direction, from nightstand holders to specialized pillow. Often preplanning the path of the hose and attaching it to a bedpost or other item can help eliminate issues.