What is continuous positive airway pressure (cpap) therapy?

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) Therapy
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Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) for sleep apnea: Overview

CPAP is a small machine that you use at home every night while you sleep. It increases air pressure in your throat to keep your airway open. When you have sleep apnea, this can help you sleep better, feel better, and avoid future health problems. CPAP stands for "continuous positive airway pressure."

The CPAP machine will have one of the following:

  • A mask that covers your nose and mouth
  • A mask that covers your nose only
  • A nasal pillow that covers only the openings of your nose

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP)

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is treatment provided by a machine worn at night or during times of sleep to treat sleep apnea, a sleep disorder in which a person regularly stops breathing during sleep for 10 seconds or longer. A CPAP machine increases air pressure in the throat, keeping tissues in the airway from collapsing when a person inhales.

The CPAP machine delivers air through a mask that covers the nose and mouth, through a mask that covers only the nose, or through a nasal pillow that covers only the openings of the nose.

CPAP is the most widely used treatment for sleep apnea caused by blocked airflow in the throat (obstructive sleep apnea).

How can you care for yourself when using CPAP for sleep apnea?

If using CPAP is not comfortable, or if you have certain side effects, work with your doctor to fix them. Here are some things you can try:

  • Be sure the mask, nasal mask, or nasal pillow fits well.
  • See if your doctor can adjust the pressure of your CPAP.
  • If your nose or mouth is dry, set the machine to deliver warmer or wetter air. Or try using a humidifier. Follow the directions for cleaning the machine.
  • If your nose is runny or stuffy, talk to your doctor about using a decongestant medicine or steroid nasal spray. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label. Do not use the medicine longer than the label says.
  • Your doctor may also help you with problems like swallowing air, bloating, or claustrophobia.

Talk to your doctor if you're still having problems. If these things don't help, you might try a different type of machine.

How well does CPAP for sleep apnea work?

CPAP works well to treat sleep apnea. If you use CPAP, you may:

  • Be less sleepy when you wake up.
  • Have lower blood pressure.
  • Have a lower risk of accidents.
  • Improve your sleep-related quality of life.

If you have a bed partner, they may also sleep better when you use CPAP.

How can you adjust to using your CPAP?

It may take time for you to become comfortable with using CPAP. If you can't get used to it, talk to your doctor. You might be able to try another type of mask or make other adjustments.

Why is CPAP used for sleep apnea?

CPAP is usually the best treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. It is the first treatment choice and the most widely used. CPAP:

  • Helps you have more normal sleep, so you feel less sleepy and more alert during the daytime.
  • May help keep heart failure or other heart problems from getting worse.
  • May help lower your blood pressure.

If you have a bed partner, they may also sleep better when you use a CPAP. That's because you aren't snoring or restless.

Your doctor may suggest CPAP if you have:

  • Moderate to severe sleep apnea.
  • Sleep apnea and coronary artery disease (CAD).
  • Sleep apnea and heart failure.

What are the side effects of CPAP for sleep apnea?

Some people who use CPAP have:

  • A dry or stuffy nose and a sore throat.
  • Irritated skin on the face.
  • Bloating.

Why is CPAP used for sleep apnea?

CPAP is the most effective treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. It's the first treatment choice for adults and is the most widely used.

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