12 Oct 2017

7 Common CPAP Mask Problems – And How To Solve Them

If you have a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine as a part of your sleep apnea therapy, you can maximise the efficacy of your treatment by focusing on two “Cs”: Consistency and Compliance of use.

Consistency comes from using the machine during every sleep as instructed, while Compliance means using it as intended.

While a CPAP Machine can offer relief and a better night’s sleep, it’s not without its minor challenges too. Most commonly, CPAP treatment users can encounter issues with the mask, which is the main part that is in contact with you during sleep. To help with this, take a look at the top seven concerns around CPAP masks, and how you can solve them, so you can get back to the business of getting a great night’s rest.

Masks.jpgThe CPAP Mask
 

The mask piece plays a major role in the functioning of the CPAP machine, and is the one part that most people have questions about. So let’s discuss all of the common mask problems and, more importantly, how to solve them so you can get the most out of your nightly treatment.

What are the most common CPAP mask concerns?

 

 1. My CPAP mask doesn’t fit me quite right

Finding the perfect mask that fits your face well is essential in achieving effective results when using a CPAP machine for Sleep Apnea treatment. That’s because having a CPAP mask that is the correct shape for your face not only ensures comfort to assist with consistent use, it also makes the mask work correctly each time you sleep.

cpapmask1-1.jpg

Solution One: Learn How To Put On Your CPAP Mask

Your mask may not fit you correctly if you are not putting on the headgear in the right manner. Small adjustments can make all the difference when it comes to comfort and effectiveness, so ask your medical professional to show you the best way to put on your mask so that it fits perfectly to the contours of your face the way it is designed to do.

Solution Two: Take Your Time To Find The Right CPAP Mask

It’s worth investing the time to find the right CPAP mask which fits you comfortably and correctly. When you see your medical professional, they are trained to undertake trial fittings for you to ensure that your mask works well for you. Don’t be shy about being honest and speaking up if your mask doesn’t feel quite right, as only you can know for sure.

Solution Three: Adjust For Facial Changes Over Time

Your face can naturally change over time, through weigh loss or gain, or even the growth of facial hair. If that happens, don’t just put up with the ill-fitting mask, as it can cause discomfort and issues with your treatment. Instead, contact your medical professional and exchange your mask for one that fits better.

2. My CPAP mask is leaking

Hearing or feeling leaks of any amount is something to be concerned with and not simply ignored. The way your CPAP machine works to overcome Sleep Apnea each night is by using air pressure to keep your throat open throughout the hours of sleep so that there is a constant stream of oxygen going into your airways. The loss of that air pressure due to a leak in a seal can therefore mean that the treatment is not working effectively, if at all.

This means that even if you are taking the right measures for treatment by using the CPAP machine, you might achieve little to no resulting improvements.

Solution One: Mask Fitting

This lies in ensuring the mask is fitting your face snugly to create an air pressure seal. If you feel that there is a seepage of air, or you find that your untreated Sleep Apnea symptoms unexplainably return, it’s time to get your medical professional to check your mask to make sure that it’s fitting you well, and not leaking.

We understand this can be inconvenient, however there’s no point in going to the trouble of using your CPAP machine if it is not working for you, especially when it’s such an easy fix.

Follow up CPAP therapy checkups

Solution Two: Replace Your CPAP Mask

Over time, masks experience normal wear and tear which can lead to a misshapen form. Constant contact with skin oils, creams or makeup can also cause the seals to deteriorate. If this is the case, the integrity of the seal may become compromised which can cause leaks. CPAP masks are consumables that should be replaced regularly to ensure that your treatment remains effective every time you wear the headgear. 

3. My mask is making my nose stuffy or dry

Some people experience sinus issues, such as a dry or stuffy nose when exposed to the air pressure coming from the CPAP mask.

Solution: Use A Heated Humidifier For Your CPAP Machine

Most CPAP machines now come with a heated humidifier device inbuilt which is specifically designed to increase the moisture levels in the air being delivered, to reduce airway and nose dryness. This greatly reduces this problem’s severity, or solves it altogether.

4. The CPAP mask’s air pressure is uncomfortable

For some, getting accustomed to the continual air pressure being blown through the mask can be difficult. This is understandable – it doesn’t often feel very natural, especially when you are just beginning treatment. Tolerating the air stream while trying to rest may be a little uncomfortable. Some people can also find it difficult to exhale against the pressure.

cpapmask2-1.jpg

Solution One: Use The Sleep Onset Detection Function

As mentioned previously, some CPAP devices have a Sleep Onset Detection feature where the machine will begin at a low pressure and won’t ramp up to your prescribed pressure until the device detects that you have fallen asleep. This means that, while you are lying in bed with the headgear on, you won’t feel the full pressure of the air until after you have drifted off and no longer actively aware when the oxygen increases. This can greatly ease the uncomfortable feeling, while ensuring your treatment is effective.

Solution Two: Use The C-Flex Attachment

Some CPAP devices have a C-Flex attachment that has a sensor inbuilt to regulate the air pressure based on when you are inhaling and exhaling. It will then adjust the levels of oxygen to make the breathing experience far more comfortable, and alleviate any problems you may have. 

5. The mask’s connecting tube is bothering me

Sometimes it’s not the mask itself, but the tube behind it that can create the problem. While the tube is an essential part of your treatment because it connects the mask to the CPAP machine, it can often be inconvenient and get in the way during the night.

Solution: The Spinaleze Pillow

If you find that you are becoming frustrated by the presence of the tube attached to your mask, we recommend the Spinaleze Pillow. This is a uniquely designed pillow, specifically engineered for spinal support. It is made in Australia and is quite good for CPAP users. It comes in many sizes to best accommodate your needs, and features ribbed groves on both sides so that you can rest your head comfortably, while the tube sits away from you, and not across your pillow.

ResSleep stocks Spinaleze pillows. Drop in to one of our locations to see one! Or you can find more information here: https://www.spinaleze.com.au/

6. My CPAP mask is annoying me every time I use it

Frustration with CPAP treatment is unfortunate, but very normal. We understand that it can be disheartening and trying on your patience knowing that you have to wear a mask and a machine on a long term basis. Patients often become fed up having to put on the headgear nightly.

Solution: Focus On The Positive Aspects Of Your CPAP Treatment

Focusing on the positive health benefits of your treatment over the inconvenience of the mask will help tip the scales in your mind of why you are doing this every night. While this sounds like a trivial solution, it really isn’t: frustration is a state of mind, and by focusing on how much better you feel each day after a solid night’s sleep with the CPAP machine, versus how you were before the treatment will help reinforce to yourself why you are doing this in the first place.

7. My mask makes me feel claustrophobic

When you first wear a mask on your face, especially while resting, it is possible that you may feel odd or a little discomfort. After all, when it’s in use, your CPAP mask is strapped to your face, blowing streams of air into your mouth and airways to help keep your throat clear all night. This experience may feel unsettling for some users new to CPAP therapy.

cpapmask3-1.jpg

Solution One: Try An Alternative Type Of CPAP Mask

For some patients, the mask’s design and size can be a little intimidating. This is more commonly true for full-face masks, because it covers a lot of your face while being a little heavy. If this is happening to you, we often recommend trying a different type of mask, known as a nasal pillow mask. They fit directly into the base of your nose with pillow-type cushions which seal around your nostrils. Many people prefer the nasal pillow masks as they are smaller, lighter and quieter.

These mask designs are ultimately less intrusive and make a user feel more at ease than the larger mask types, and many find they are able to overcome their initial claustrophobia by switching to nasal pillow CPAP masks.

You can find more information about nasal pillow CPAP masks here. 

Solution Two: Introduce The CPAP Mask In Stages

The solution may lie in breaking down the use of the mask into stages so you can get used to it.

Instead of immediately strapping the mask to your face and turning on the air – which can be quite intimidating – try simply holding it to your face first. Wait a few moments until you are comfortable with its presence. Next, turn on the pressurised airstream and slowly acclimatise yourself to that sensation too. After this, the next step is to finally strap the headgear on and see how you feel.

By breaking down the introduction of the mask into stages, you can ease yourself into getting comfortable with the mask. Give it a try and see if it helps!

 

Solution Three: Wear The CPAP Mask Outside Of Bed

When in private, you can try wearing the headgear while performing daily tasks and chores such as cleaning, watching television or reading. The activity will distract you, while you get more accustomed to the feeling and weight of the mask. 

Solution Four: Use The Sleep Onset Detection Function On Your CPAP Device

The Sleep Onset Detection feature is available on some CPAP devices. This function waits until it detects that you have fallen asleep before administering your overnight therapy. This means that you can put on your CPAP mask and activate the CPAP device when you get into bed, then relax and slowly drift off to sleep. The machine will begin at a low pressure and won’t ramp up to your prescribed pressure until the device detects that you have fallen asleep. This can reduce the sense of claustrophobia by slowing increasing the air pressure, rather than having it on maximum all at once.

Solution Five: Take Small Naps With The CPAP Mask In Place

This is another way to get acclimatised to your CPAP mask in order to reduce the feeling of claustrophobia. Try napping with the CPAP headgear on for short periods on a couch or some other location that isn’t your normal bed. The shorter time and different location can allow you to feel more at ease about wearing it, and break down the sense of fear.

Solution Six: Speak To ResSleep

If you have tried the solutions above but you are still having issues with claustrophobia with your mask and tube piece, speak to ResSleep or your medical professional about your issue. Our trained staff will be able to suggest some alternative suggestions.

Are you having issues with your CPAP treatment?

While a lot of CPAP mask issues can be fixed at home, it's a good idea to go for regular check-ups of your treatment, to ensure that your sleep apnea treatment is up to scratch. The sleep professionals at ResSleep can provide you with a detailed look at your therapy data from your CPAP device to see if treatment is working for you.

Having regularly check-ups where your therapy data is downloaded and reviewed will allow the identification of trends, so you can see exactly how it’s working. We can also inform your GP of any updates.