Before understanding what is CPAP therapy, we need to know what is sleep apnea as CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) is a treatment for sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which breathing during sleep is interrupted. This happens repeatedly as one sleeps, the result of which is that a person feels tired and sleepy even after a full night’s sleep. It could either be due to narrowing of the air passage (as in the case of obstructive sleep apnea) or due to the brain not being able to send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing (as in the case of central sleep apnea). Complex sleep apnea is the third type which is a combination of both the previous forms of sleep apnea.
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CPAP therapy is the most popular form of treatment for obstructive sleep apnea in which the CPAP machine increases air pressure in one’s air passage and prevents it from collapsing. It is a nonsurgical mode of treatment that is useful for treating those with medium to severe sleep apnea. The CPAP machines that are used in CPAP therapy need to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States. These medical devices are available only on production of a medical prescription. Hence, CPAP therapy can be started only at the advice of a doctor. Although most commonly used for treating obstructive sleep apnea, CPAP therapy is often advised to those who suffer from sleep apnea and coronary heart disease or heart failure and today is largely used in intensive care units for ventilation.
CPAP therapy is done with the use of the CPAP machines that blow air into the air passage at a particular pressure. This pressure is maintained by the flow generator in the CPAP machine. This compressed air is delivered through a hose or pipe to the nose mask or a full face mask for sleep apnea treatment, whichever is worn by the patient. The pressure that has to be maintained is determined by a sleep physician based on the reports of observations done on the patient during an overnight sleep in a sleep laboratory.
The normal CPAP machine that is most commonly available, maintains a fixed pressure. However, in the APAP or the Auto CPAP, the pressure is automatically adjusted to the minimum level required to prevent the air passage from collapsing. The BiPAP (bilevel positive airway pressure) machines are a more advanced form of PAP (positive airway pressure) machines that maintain separate inspiratory positive airway pressure and expiratory positive airway pressure for easier exhalation of the patient.
CPAP Therapy Benefits
The CPAP therapy benefit is a good night’s sleep, the effect of which is immediate. It prevents daytime sleepiness and removes the feeling of fatigue due to lack of proper sleep. It lowers blood pressure and also reduces heart complications for those who suffer from coronary heart diseases. It also relieves one of snoring which may be one of the side effects of sleep apnea.
CPAP Therapy Side Effects
Despite all the benefits, there are certain side effects and problems with CPAP of which CPAP mask problems are the most common ones. CPAP masks come in particular dimensions that may not tally with the shape and size of every patient’s face. A loose mask may result in leakage of air and reduction in air pressure in the air passage, whereas, a tight fitting one may cause skin irritation and allergies. The best way to avoid this problem is to try out different masks with the help of the technicians specializing in CPAP masks. Air being continuously forced into one’s air passage may result in a dry nose. A humidifier can be used to prevent such problems. Almost everyone finds wearing a mask while sleeping very uncomfortable. However, with time most adjust with the CPAP machine. For those who can’t, there are alternatives to CPAP like surgery or using intra-oral dental appliances. Read more on CPAP side effects.
CPAP therapy is a blessing for those with mild to severe sleep apnea. With the help of the CPAP machines, CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) treatment ensures that the pressure in the air passage is maintained just at the minimum level that would prevent the collapse of the air passage. CPAP therapy can be used easily at home for a peaceful night’s sleep. However, for best results, CPAP machines should be used every night by patients suffering from sleep apnea.