If you have obstructive sleep apnea, then you most likely know what a CPAP machine is. You might even use it to treat your symptoms.
In the past, CPAP machines, or Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machines, have been the treatment of choice for obstructive sleep apnea. Yet, it has a long list of problems and side effects that undermine its efficiency in treating obstructive sleep apnea and many CPAP users complain of uncomfortable side effects. So, why did physicians recommend such a bulky, noisy, and uncomfortable contraption for so long when there are better alternatives?
This article will list the most common problems and safety concerns associated with the use of CPAP machines. It will also discuss better and safer alternatives to treating obstructive sleep apnea. Remember, the key to taking control of your health is to be informed and aware of all your options, so you have the knowledge to make the best choice for you.
Common Problems with CPAP Machines
While the CPAP has been proven to help reduce symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea and is often recommended by doctors, there are many issues that come with using a CPAP. These negatives might very well outweigh the benefits of using a CPAP machine. Here are the most common problems that CPAP users have brought to attention:
1. Air leaking from the mask
This is definitely the most common complaint from CPAP users. Patients report trying 20-30 different masks with no success. If the mask doesn’t fit absolutely perfectly, air can escape around the edges and cause many problems that will be discussed later on. Larger masks that cover the entirety of the nose and mouth are more prone to leakage. Leaks can alter the amount of air pressure you get, cause more noise, and be uncomfortable.
2. Difficulty tolerating forced air
The point of the CPAP machine is to release constant and steady air pressure which helps keep your airways open. Unfortunately, the force of this air pressure has caused problems for users. Many people have admitted being intolerant to the pressure.
In some cases, this intolerance is due to improper titration. This is when a doctor sets the CPAP pressure to relieve apnea attacks. Unfortunately, titration can be performed wrong and the pressure can be too much. Sensitivity to the CPAP’s pressure has led to other breathing struggles and side effects, as well as continued to prevent proper sleep.
3. Dry and stuffy nose
Dryness in the nose is often caused by the mask leaking. In fact, many problems CPAP users face are accompanied by a leaking mask, as mentioned above. A constant dry, stuffy nose is not only irritating but can keep you awake, too. In some cases, it causes chronic nosebleeds.
4. Dry mouth or sore throat
Another problem caused by leakage is dry mouth and sore throats. This is especially true if your mouth falls open during sleep. When air escapes, your mouth or tongue can become parched. If this problem becomes regular, it can even lead to damaged gums or teeth.
Many have complained about feelings of claustrophobia while wearing the mask. Because the mask is supposed to fit tightly around the face, users can feel confined and uncomfortable. This tension leads to increase lack of sleep and even anxiety attacks.
6. Skin irritation and marks, rashes, or sores
If your CPAP mask doesn’t fit right, it can leave lasting marks and cause irritated areas of skin. The rubbing of the mask during sleep can also result in sores or ulcers, specifically along the bridge of the nose. Many masks contain latex, so people with a latex allergy or simply just sensitive skin have seen skin irritation and the formation of rashes.
7. Dry or teary eyes
Another notable problem that comes along with mask leakage is dry or teary eyes. If the mask leaks or is ill-fitting, it could blow air into your eyes through the night. This results in dry or excessively teary eyes that can be very sensitive.
8. Loud noise
This is another very common problem with CPAPs. It’s like trading one problem for another. The original snoring is irritating, but the CPAPs make loud, intense, constant noises. Their loud noise can disrupt the sleep of the user and could irritate the user’s bed partner even more so.
9. Discomfort breathing out
While it should be easy to breathe in, some users feel discomfort when breathing out against the forced air pressure of the CPAP. This usually improves over time, but it requires more focus and energy and can lead to insomnia.
10. Decreased sex drive
The use of a CPAP mask can be unappealing and cause insecurity. This could eventually inhibit sex drive for one or both partners. How would you feel with an alien on your face?
11. Air swallowing or aerophagia
A more serious issue presented by CPAP use is aerophagia or air swallowing. The forced air pressure can cause a person to basically begin “eating” excessive air during sleep, then wake up with a stomach full of air. Symptoms of aerophagia include flatulence, burping, and intense bloating. This can also affect sex drive, as these symptoms are certainly not attractive.
12. Developing central sleep apnea
Using a CPAP can sometimes result in experiences of breath-holding that are reminiscent of central sleep apnea. If this happens, a switch from CPAP therapy will most likely need to be made.
13. Face growth problems for children
Children who use CPAP machines are often at risk for growth problems in the mid-face area. This is due to the extensive pressure of the mask against the nose or cheekbones. Children need to be monitored closely. Face-growth issues pose a serious concern for parents of children who suffer from sleep apnea.
14. Difficult maintenance and effects of improperly cleaned machines
The tubes and masks of a CPAP machine require extensive and frequent cleaning. Unfortunately, this is a difficult task to accomplish. The humidifier chamber needs to be cleaned every morning and refilled with distilled water. The machine filters also need to be replaced regularly. If your machine and its parts don’t dry thoroughly after cleaning, mold and bacteria can build up and cause more health issues.
Most of the parts in a machine needs to be replaced either monthly or every few months. This is not only costly but can be a hassle having to change out the parts so often.
15. High cost and insurance hassles
CPAP machines and supplies are not cost-effective by any means. Machines can range from $1500 to $3000 depending on quality, brand, and features. Many have discovered insurance issues while trying to get a CPAP machine. Some companies refuse to cover the cost of a CPAP machine, despite diagnoses, and companies that do only cover a small portion of the cost.
A Better Alternative
A little disturbing, right? For a highly recommended treatment, CPAP therapy certainly comes with a lot of baggage. Which is why a better and safer alternative has been proposed, researched, and validated: oral appliance therapy.
Oral appliance therapy is a specific treatment for obstructive sleep apnea that involves wearing a removable oral appliance, similar to a night-guard or retainer, in your mouth during sleep. The fit of an oral appliance is comparable to a sports mouth-guard.
The goal of the oral appliance is to keep the airways from collapsing and preventing airway blockage. It does so by either holding the tongue in place or supporting the jaw in a forward position. With this appliance, the soft tissue in the back of the throat will no longer be required to support different regions of the mouth. Thus, air will flow through without any issues. To be effective in this way, oral appliances are custom-fit to your mouth and teeth shape.
Somnomed is the leading manufacturer of high quality, comfortable, and effective oral appliances. The company has helped almost half a million patients worldwide gain better sleep and a more comfortable lifestyle with a variety of FDA-approved oral appliances to choose from.
How to End the Vicious Cycle
Making the switch to oral appliance therapy is easy! Advanced Sleep Centers of Virginia has a team of highly trained sleep professionals waiting to help you break the cycle of restless nights and relationship strain. Not to mention your wallet will be happier, too.
Our team will assist you in determining if oral appliance therapy is the best fit for you. We make the process simple with at-home sleep tests, online scheduling, and a secure telemedicine portal where you can communicate with sleep professionals privately and quickly. Additionally, Advanced Sleep Centers of Virginia uses exclusively Somnomed appliances to ensure you the best quality and comfort possible. We want you to have a healthier night’s sleep and a better quality of life!
Ready to ditch that horrible CPAP? Advanced Sleep Solutions of Virginia will find the right oral sleep appliance for you and get you on the right track for improving your sleep. You can schedule an appointment online or call us today at (703) 689-2480.