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Sleep apnea, a potentially severe sleep disorder, can lead to other health complications if left untreated. With the help of your doctor, you should be able to narrow down what equipment you’ll need to treat your sleep apnea effectively. If you have ever been diagnosed with this, you know that CPAP masks and machines can be small investments, but are CPAP masks universal?
CPAP masks are universal. A common assumption made by sleep apnea patients is that they need a different type of mask for each kind of CPAP machine they use. Most CPAP masks should be compatible with all types of devices, making it even more important to choose the right mask for you.
With multiple types of sleep apnea and CPAP machines, how do you figure out which ones apply to you? How should you go about narrowing down the 200+ CPAP masks available on the market? Read on to reveal the answers to these questions.
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Kinds of Sleep Apnea and Common Symptoms
There are three common types of sleep apnea. You should consult your doctor if you suspect you have any of these sleep disorders.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea is quite common and is most common in someone older who is overweight. You would be surprised at how many of your friends and acquaintances have been diagnosed with it. I certainly was. Simply put, obstructive sleep apnea is when the natural flow of air from your mouth and nasal passages to your lungs stops temporarily due to a narrow airway.
You might have obstructive sleep apnea if you experience headaches, drowsiness, forgetfulness, or just an overall bad mood. Snoring is also a sign because it is the sound of air passing through a very narrow space. If left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea could lead to a stroke, high blood pressure, heart disease, or even diabetes.
Central Sleep Apnea
Central sleep apnea is similar to obstructive sleep apnea, except that breathing stops or is extremely shallow for longer than just an instance. In addition to a narrow airway, another cause of central sleep apnea is that the brain is not transmitting signals to the body to tell it to inhale and exhale. The lack of air usually causes the body to wake up alarmed.
The symptoms of central sleep apnea are in line with obstructive sleep apnea when the cause is physical. When the cause is neurological, symptoms of weakness and numbness, a change in the voice, and swallowing can occur.
Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome
Complex sleep apnea syndrome occurs when the previously described central sleep apnea presents itself in patients who have been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea. It seems to appear during the start of treatment and may be resolved after a period of continuous treatment for central sleep apnea.
What Is CPAP Therapy?
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy uses devices that generate and ensure a continuous air pressure level in patients who have breathing disorders. This could include anyone from adults with sleep apnea sleeping in their beds at home to premature infants with underdeveloped lungs in the NICU.
A CPAP machine has several main parts. Those would be the base, the replaceable filter, the hose, the mask, and sometimes an attached humidifier. Some devices have power cords, making it more challenging to position the unit in your home, and some have external CPAP batteries. Even though most CPAP machines have these things in common, there are different types of devices to treat various breathing disorders.
Different Types of CPAP Machines
There are three main types of CPAP machines for treating sleep apnea. Your doctor should help you choose the right one for you.
Whether you have a narrow airway or one with extra tissue, you may need help keeping the airway open enough for you to breathe normally while sleeping. This is where a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine comes in, the most common device to start treating sleep apnea with.
Some of the sleep apnea symptoms are snoring, labored breathing, waking suddenly while gasping for air, and waking up because your brain senses your lack of oxygen. If you don’t have other health complications, then treatment using a CPAP machine should reduce or eliminate these symptoms.
BiPAP stands for ‘Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure.’ It is a type of ventilator, just like the CPAP machines, with one main difference. Some sleep apnea patients have trouble breathing out while using a CPAP machine because their airflow is too weak to exhale against the incoming air pressure. A BiPAP machine helps the patient achieve a positive airflow both when breathing in and while breathing out.
Some conditions require BiPAP therapy other than sleep apnea. A few of those include asthma, pneumonia, neurological issues that impair breathing signals from the brain to the lungs, post-op recovery, and other breathing issues caused by heart problems and obesity.
APAP stands for ‘Automatic Positive Airway Pressure.’ What’s different about this type of machine than the CPAP and BiPAP is that it does not stay on a single preset pressure. APAP machines can automatically adjust themselves between two presets for a low and high setting. It does so throughout the night as the patient’s breathing changes.
APAP machines have the most flexibility among the three machine choices. In addition to the automatically adjusting function, it can also be set to a straight CPAP function. When shopping for a self-adjusting PAP device, it is essential to choose an algorithm approved by your doctor.
Choosing the Right CPAP Mask for You
Some patients will need to use more than one type of CPAP machine throughout their respiratory disorder treatment. Since masks are interchangeable between devices, it is worth investing the time and money into choosing the best mask for you.
7 Categories of CPAP Masks
- Nasal masks surround your nose, but not your mouth, and are best for those who mostly breathe through their noses.
- Full face masks cover both the nose and mouth.
- Nasal pillow masks cover only the area on and around the nostrils.
- Nasal prong masks are similar to nasal pillow masks, but they seal deeper inside the nostrils.
- Hybrid masks combine the characteristics of a full face mask and a nasal pillow mask.
- Oral masks cover the mouth only, leaving the nostrils open, and are best for patients who mostly breathe through their mouths.
- Total face masks cover the entire face from forehead to chin and from ear to ear.
CPAP masks need to be replaced about once every 6 to 12 months. To help your mask last longer, you could replace various parts of it as you spot wear. Replacing parts of your mask is also an easy way to increase comfort if the frame or head strap is too small or large.
One of the top-selling nasal masks made by Philips Respironics can be maintained by purchasing a new Replacement Frame/Cushion for Small ComfortGel Nasal Mask and the Respironics OEM Headgear Replacement for ComfortGel Nasal Mask. The original mask retails for $109, but each replacement part is a small fraction of that price, saving you money in the long run by not having to replace the entire mask.
CPAP masks are universal for the most part. Knowing this, understanding your diagnosis, and the kind of CPAP machine or machines you need will help you choose the ideal mask for yourself. Save money by purchasing just one mask that is a great fit for you and then by simply replacing the parts as needed.
- Mayo Clinic: Sleep Apnea
- CPAP.com: CPAP Masks FAQs
- Healthline: Obstructive Sleep Apnea
- SleepApnea.org: Central Sleep Apnea
- Dove Press: Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome
- ScienceDirect: Continuous Positive Airway Pressure
- SleepFoundation.org: How to Use a CPAP Machine for Better Sleep
- cpap.com: Different Types of Sleep Apnea Machines
- John Hopkins Medicine: BiPAP
- AAST: What is APAP Therapy? A Comprehensive Breakdown
- Easy Breathe: The Beauty of CPAP Masks Is That They Are Interchangeable