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CPAP Machines: Frequently Asked Questions

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According to USA Today, approximately 5 to 10 percent of Americans suffer from sleep apnea, a common medical condition that causes sufferers to stop breathing for short bursts throughout the night. If you've recently been diagnosed with sleep apnea, your doctor might recommend being fitted with a piece of durable medical equipment called a CPAP. If you're unfamiliar with this equipment, or apprehensive about using it at night, here are a few questions you might have:

What Is a CPAP Machine?

A continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, machine is most commonly used to treat sleep apnea. The machine works by blowing pressurized air into your throat. This air gently prevents your throat from collapsing, which allows you to breathe more freely.

Typically, the machine is made up of three components: the motor, the hoses and the mask. The motor acts as a compressor and draws air in and pressurizes it before sending it through the hose. The hose is attached to the mask. The mask is available in all shapes and sizes and can be adjusted until you are comfortable.

Some units also come attached with a humidifier. This is especially helpful if you live in a dry climate or the CPAP machine causes throat irritation and dryness.

Do I Need a Prescription for my CPAP Machine?

If you suspect you have sleep apnea, your first step is to speak with your primary care physician. The physician might provide you with a prescription, or they could refer you to a sleep specialist. Either way, you will need to secure a prescription for your CPAP machine.

In order to get a prescription, you will need to undergo a sleep study. During this study, the sleep specialist or doctor will provide you with a CPAP machine and will adjust the air pressure until they find a setting that is both effective and comfortable.

What Are Common Problems Associated with CPAP Therapy?

If you are suffering from sleep apnea, snoring and find yourself tired throughout the day, a CPAP machine could be the answer. However, there are several issues that many patients experience that can make wearing their CPAP machine uncomfortable.

Here are a few of the most common complaints of CPAP users:

  • Problems Adjusting to Wearing the CPAP Mask – One of the most common problems that patients experience is simply not feeling comfortable. If you can't tolerate the mask while you're trying to sleep, there are several ways to correct this issue. For example, try wearing the mask throughout the day to get used to it. You can also switch to a different type of mask.
  • Issues Tolerating the Air Pressure – Many people have trouble with the feeling of the air pressure on their mouth and throat. One way to correct this is to get a CPAP machine with a ramp feature. The ramp feature allows you to begin the night with less air pressure. The air pressure gradually increases as the night continues.
  • Dry Nose or Throat – The continuous air pressure often causes the patient's nose and throat to feel dry. If you haven't already, ask your doctor or sleep specialist to prescribe a CPAP machine with a humidifier. Using a saline nasal spray before you go to bed can also help keep your nose moist during the night.
  • Dry Eyes or Skin Irritation – Finally, many patients with ill-fitting masks can suffer from skin irritation and dry eyes. This occurs when the mask allows the pressurized air to seep into their eyes. If the mask is too large or not worn properly, it can also cause it to rub on your skin, causing irritation. If you suffer from either problem, you may need a different style or size of mask.

Suffering from sleep apnea is a common issue that is often resolved by wearing a CPAP machine. If you've recently been prescribed a CPAP machine, don't hesitate to ask your doctor, sleep specialist or pharmacist to help you find a mask that fits correctly. For more information, contact a local medical equipment supplier like Hospital Pharmacy West