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What Is a CPAP Machine Used For?

Reviewed on 6/19/2020

What Is A CPAP Machine?

A CPAP, or continuous positive airway pressure, machine consists of a mask and motor that pumps air into the airways at night to treat sleep apnea.
A CPAP, or continuous positive airway pressure, machine consists of a mask and motor that pumps air into the airways at night to treat sleep apnea.

CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, and usually refers to a machine that uses mild air pressure on a continuous basis to keep the airways open during sleep

A CPAP machine usually includes a mask or nosepiece that fits over the mouth and nose, straps to attach the mask and fit it securely onto the head, a hose that connects the mask to a motor, and a motor that moves air through the tube. 

A BiPAP is a bi-level positive airway pressure machine that alternates air pressure, delivering more pressure when you inhale, and less pressure when you exhale. This may be an option for patients who have difficulty tolerating the constant flow of forced air from a CPAP. 

What Is a CPAP Machine Used For?

CPAP machines are used to treat obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a sleep-related breathing disorder. Sleep apnea occurs when the upper airway becomes blocked repeatedly during sleep, resulting in the airflow partially or completely stopping. 

Symptoms of sleep apnea include:

  • Loud snoring
  • Restless sleep
  • Tiredness
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Feeling unrested after waking
  • Waking up choking or gasping
  • Morning headaches, dry mouth, or sore throat
  • Frequently waking to urinate
  • Difficulty thinking clearly or remembering things

If left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea can result in complications including:

CPAP machines may also be used to treat preterm infants who have underdeveloped lungs.

How Is A CPAP Machine Used?

Once a CPAP is prescribed for use, a doctor will adjust the machine for certain air pressure settings. The machine contains a data card that lets the doctor know if the pressure settings are working. Based on this information, the doctor may modify the pressure settings to reduce or eliminate apnea events during sleep.

The patient needs to place the mask over the mouth and nose and wear it during sleep. A CPAP must be used overnight at home, and also when traveling and during naps. It can take time to get used to using a CPAP machine and find one that has a mask you find comfortable. 

Masks must be cleaned daily. 

What Are Side Effects of Using a CPAP Machine?

Side effects of CPAP treatment include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Nosebleeds
  • Facial irritation where the mask is worn
  • Claustrophobia
  • Accidentally removing the mask during sleep
  • Pressure sores (may occur if the mask is worn too tight)
  • Gas/bloating resulting from swallowing air – consult a doctor if this occurs

What Are Benefits of Using a CPAP Machine?

When used properly and regularly, patients usually notice improvements relatively quickly such as:

  • Better sleep quality
  • Less snoring/no snoring
  • Less daytime sleepiness

Long-term benefits of regular CPAP use include:

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Reviewed on 6/19/2020
References
Medscape Medical Reference
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