CPAP Masks

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is the term you will hear from your doctor if you visit the doctor to be treated for snoring or breathlessness during sleep. However OSA and snoring is not the same thing. The term Apnea means no breath. When a person falls asleep the muscles get relaxed. This may cause the structures of nose and mouth to fall back against the wall of the throat constricting the airway for breathing. Thus breathing which should happen automatically does not happen easily. Snoring is the noise generated when there is partial obstruction to the airway and OSA is the complete obstruction of the airway. While this is normal in most cases but the constriction is more severe in older males, overweight individuals and people with short necks.CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure is the most prescribed treatment for OSA. Its a medical device comprising of a high flow fan, a hose and a sealed nasal mask . The nasal mask is attached to the patient while sleeping. Studies show CPAP is very effective in treating most apnic problems.

The CPAP mask uses air pressure to push the patient’s tongue forward and prevents it from falling back. This allows the airway to stay clear. The CPAP machine blows compressed air at a prescribed pressure. It is also known as titrated pressure and is determined by a qualified physician. The pressure is measured in centimeters of water (cm H2O). This air is delivered through a hose to the CPAP mask. It splints the airway and reduces obstruction. CPAP treatment can be very effective for OSA. For some patients the improvement is evident on the first night itself. It also improves the quality of sleep of the partner which was otherwise disrupted due to the patient’s snoring. Sleep apnea is a chronic problem and to counter it treatment should be ongoing.

Once CPAP is prescribed it is important to choose the mask and headgear carefully. Both should be comfortable and provide for sealed airflow. A comfortable mask enhances the effectiveness of CPAP. While choosing a CPAP mask the fit, the size and the style should be kept in mind. The fit and size are determined by ones physical attributes. The style is ones personal preference. The masks are mostly triangular in shape and are held in place by a headgear with the help of an adjustable strap. They are worn over the nose or both nose and mouth. The straps holding the headgear and mask together should not be too tight or too loose. The straps might break if they are too tight and would be very uncomfortable if they are loose. Ideally there should be quick release hooks at the front of the strap attached to the mask ensuring easy and quick removal when required. They also assist in keeping the straps in place so that one does not have to adjust it every time. If one breathes through the mouth it is advisable to choose a chin-up strap. It would keep the mouth closed. One can also go for masks that are meant for mouth breathers. Masks are available with varying features. Generally they have a hard plastic body and silicon seal. People allergic to silicon can go for masks prepared from synthetic rubber or vinyl. Nowadays masks made of a gel like material are also available in the market. They are intended to shape up according to ones attributes and give a more comfortable feeling. Some masks work with only a particular headgear. Some masks can accommodate spectacles as well. As manufacturers market different CPAP machines with different features, different lines of masks and headgears are also available. In effect any mask would work with the standard hose .A person in consultation with his physician and considering his own requirement should chose the right headgear and mask. If both are comfortable then better patient compliance is ensured. Nasal pillows are another alternative to CPAP masks; however masks are more widely used.

In spite of its effectiveness in treating OSA CPAP has certain downsides. Some patients report skin problems and stuffy nose due to CPAP equipment. Also the noise caused by the CPAP air compressor can lead to disruption of sleep of both the patient and the partner. Definitely intimacy between the two is also restricted. There are alternative treatments of OSA like surgery and snore guards, but CPAP and its newer version Bi-PAP continue to be the most prescribed remedies.

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Hey, that's powefrul. Thanks for the news.
by Adiana     19-Feb-2012

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