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Possible CPAP Problems and How to Overcome Them

CPAP is one of the most effective and common treatments for obstructive sleep apnea. However, the treatment comes with some issues and frustrations. The continuous positive airway pressure machine consists of a hose and mask or nose piece, which deliver constant and steady air pressure. If you started or are about to start using the CPAP machine, there are a couple of possible issues you might encounter. Here is a list of all possible CPAP problems and how to overcome each one of them.

Possible CPAP Problems and How to Overcome Them

Can’t Breathe out Against the Pressure

As soon as you start using a CPAP mask, you might find it difficult to breathe out against the pressure. However, this is an issue which can be easily overcome. One of the most helpful adjustments you can make is to set the pressure of the machine to start lower and then slowly increase as you are falling asleep. Moreover, you can also use an alternative to CPAP, including BiPAP, or C-Flex setting. Nevertheless, if this is an issue which persists, it might be that the pressure setting is simply too high for you.

The Wrong CPAP Mask Size or Style

The mask you use with your CPAP machine has to fit properly and this can be arranged with your doctor or CPAP supplier. As we all have a different face shape and size, you have to find the mask which fits your face perfectly. Try a range of CPAP masks until you find the ideal fit. You might pick a mask which covers your mouth and nose with straps, or a mask with nasal pillows. The former type is great for people who breathe through their mouth during sleep and you can move a lot while sleeping. However, some people might find them very claustrophobic. On the other hand, the masks which feature nasal pillows will cover less of your face and can feel less troublesome. Nevertheless, you might not be able to move a lot during sleep.

Additionally, you should also pay attention to size, but the CPAP masks are usually adjustable. Your CPAP supplier should help you adjust your mask so it doesn’t cause pain or feel uncomfortable.

Mask Makes You Feel Claustrophobic

Many people find wearing the CPAP mask very claustrophobic. However, this is an issue which you will recognize immediately. So, when you put the mask for the first time and start panicking and your heart and breathing rate increase, you are likely to experiencing claustrophobia. If this happens, you can pick a mask which does not enclose your nose, such as nasal pillows. Moreover, you can overcome this issue while using the mask while doing something relaxing, such as watching TV or listening to music. If you don’t get used to the mask over time, you might need to seek some alternative CPAP therapies.

Trouble Getting Used to Wear the CPAP Device

Wearing the CPAP mask might feel troublesome at first and getting used to it seems to be a challenging task for some people. Hence, it’s best if you first start wearing the mask during the day while doing some relaxing activity. First, start by wearing the mask while you are awake and then move it to your bedroom. It’s also very important to stick to wearing it every day and see if your mask and pressure are right for you.

Swallowing Air

Many users of CPAP feel great discomfort when they swallow air, which triggers bloating and burping. This is usually a result of too high pressure. So, you will need to have the pressure decreased. Sometimes, it is even required to get a pressure ramp setting or undergo a new titration study.

Mask Smells Funny

Cleaning the CPAP equipment is very important and you should follow the standard cleaning instructions when cleaning it. Moreover, it’s especially important to clean your mask regularly if you have been sick. However, if you don’t do so, it is very likely that your CPAP mask will start to smell funny. Additionally, when the mask hasn’t been cleaned for some longer period of time, it might develop a smell which cannot be removed. This is when you definitely need new equipment. You should also be aware that when you get the CPAP mask it will probably come with a new smell, but you will get used to it. If the CPAP equipment comes with a humidifier, you should only use distilled water in the reservoir.

Leaky Mask, Sores and Marks on Your Face

Wearing a CPAP mask might leave some minor pressure marks on your face. However, if these marks are excessive, it usually means that the mask doesn’t fit properly and you will need to choose a new mask with a different size. Many people find it easier to switch to using a different mask style. On the other hand, if you experience some skin irritation, you will have to use some kind of skin barriers, such as petroleum jelly or face cream. Likewise, if you experience some sort of sores from the mask, you should immediately contact your medical provider. A leaky mask usually indicates that you aren’t getting the necessary air pressure. The mask might also blow air into your eyes so they can become teary and dry.    

Mask Fills with Water

In case you use a heated humidifier, you might notice some water in your mask. Even though it will be easier for you to breathe, it can lead to condensation. This also happens in your sleep in a cooler room. In order to solve this issue, you will need to turn down your humidifier temperature or keep your CPAP mask a bit warmer by putting it under the blankets. It also helps to place your CPAP machine on the floor so the extra moisture flows back down.

Difficulty Falling Asleep

A number of CPAP machine users have reported that they find it hard to fall asleep when wearing the CPAP mask. If you are one of these people, there are a number of things you can do to overcome this issue. Hence, you can try wearing the mask throughout the day to get used to it or using the ramp feature so the air pressure will slowly and gradually increase. Furthermore, you can also start following a certain set of sleep habits, such as avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bedtime, doing regular exercises, taking a warm bath before bedtime, and never go to bed until you get really tired and sleepy.

Dry Mouth When You Use Your CPAP

Using CPAP shouldn’t cause dry mouth, but if you experience this while using the mask, it probably means that your mouth is falling open with the mask on. Consequently, the pressurized air escapes from your mouth and it makes it extremely dry. Hence, you should try using a chinstrap or a heated humidifier. Additionally, you can also try changing your mask with a different style mask which includes your mouth.

Nose Is Too Congested to Use Your Mask

Breathing through your nose is almost next to impossible if you have nasal congestion, allergies, or a deviated septum. So, in order to maximize the breathing, you will have to keep these issues under control. You might also use a saline nasal spray or a heated humidifier. However, if you still cannot breathe through your nose, you will have to use a CPAP mask which includes the mouth or consider alternative therapies.

Unintentionally Removing the CPAP Device During the Night

During sleep, you are unaware of your actions and you might wake up with no mask on your face. So, if you are a person who moves a lot during sleep, you will definitely benefit from a full-face mask. Moreover, the mask should fit perfectly and you should use a CPAP-heated humidifier and a chin strap. However, if this becomes a persistent issue, you might ask someone to check you during the night whether the device is still on.

Your Symptoms Have Returned

Using continuous positive airway pressure machine comes with plenty of benefits, such as removing the excessive daytime sleepiness. However, if you notice that some sleep apnea symptoms have returned, you should immediately have your equipment checked to ensure that it is delivering the prescribed CPAP pressure. You might be also required to undergo a new titration study or have your CPAP pressure increased. So, if you notice that some of your symptoms have returned, contact your physician as promptly as possible.

Waking up With Dry, Red Eyes

If you wake up with dry and red eyes, it might mean that air is leaking from your mask into your eyes while you are sleeping. In order to solve this issue, you will have to tighten your mask slightly or getting a new and better fitting mask. The discomfort of red and dry eyes can be alleviated with saline eye drops.

Bothersome Noise

The new models of continuous positive airway pressure machines are quite silent, but if you find the noise to be troublesome, you should definitely check whether the air filter is clean and unblocked. You should always clean your machine properly. However, if you don’t know how, you should ask your physician or CPAP provider.

Nevertheless, if cleaning the machine doesn’t stop the bothersome noise, contact your CPAP supplier to check your device whether it is working properly. If this also doesn’t help, you should definitely start wearing earplugs, place the machine further from the bed, or use a white noise sound machine to mask the noise.

In a nutshell, there are a number of possible CPAP issues which you might face when using this treatment for sleep apnea. Luckily, almost all of them are easy to be solved and overcome. Hence, no matter how frustrating the experience might be at first, time and patience are the keys to success. It’s important to remember that CPAP is the most effective treatment for your obstructive sleep apnea and it also reduces the risk of other health complications. With time and patience, CPAP can positively affect your overall health and quality of life.


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