Everything You Need to Know about the CPAP Nasal Mask
Most of the time, people who suffer from the sleep disorder called sleep apnea do not know they have it until their doctor tells them about it. The disorder is characterized by abnormal pauses in a person’s breathing during sleep. Usually, the pauses in breathing can last anywhere between ten seconds to minutes.
And because the symptoms can be present for years or decades, the individual may not know that he has the disorder until he goes through a sleep study test known as polysomnogram. Although sleep apnea is not a fatal condition, its effects can lead to drastic results in the body. This is why the condition needs to be treated as early as possible.
One way to treat moderate to severe cases of sleep apnea is to use a sleep device called Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine. The machine ‘splints’ an individual’s airway open while he sleeps via a continuous flow of pressurized air down his throat.
This is through the use of a plastic facial mask that connects to the CPAP machine through a flexible tube. As a result, the required air pressure is generated by the machine to ensure that the patient’s airways remain open even while he sleeps.
Even though the use of CPAP machines in treating sleep apnea is already an effective and less expensive option, there are patients who find it uncomfortable. Mainly, they forget to use their CPAP machines every night. But in some cases, they have problems getting used to wearing their CPAP face mask while they sleep. This is why it is important to understand the main purpose of CPAP nasal masks.
What Is a CPAP Nasal Mask for?
To summarize the importance of the mask, its main purpose is to stop sleep apnea. When you are about to sleep, you put the mask on around your face in a tight and snug manner. The mask is then connected to the CPAP machine via a tube. Once you are ready to fall asleep, you have to switch on the machine to ensure that it will do its job. This will then initiate the pressurized air to be delivered to your airways; which prevents apneas from occurring. Since each patient has a different case, the pressurized air also varies. It is only the doctor who can prescribe the appropriate air pressure to be used.
What Is the Nasal Mask Made of?
CPAP nasal masks are usually plastic and have a cushion made from silicone, gel, or plastic. The purpose of the cushion is to make using the mask comfortable, especially for first timers. While the typically used mask is a full-faced model, there are other options available. If you are a sleep apnea patient who’s having a hard time getting used to the mask, it’s time you know about the other types of CPAP nasal masks.
Types of CPAP Nasal Mask
1. Traditional Nasal Mask- The most common type of nasal mask used by sleep apnea patients is the traditional nasal mask. This type comes in a triangular shape, which also covers the nose area. Typically, this has forehead braces with cushions that lay just above the eyebrows in order to add stability. It also comes with a head gear that consists of either straps or a forehead brace.
The traditional nasal mask is best for those who are used to sleeping with their mouths closed yet inhale and exhale through their nostrils only.
2. CPAP Nasal Pillow Masks- Compared to the traditional nasal mask, the CPAP Nasal Pillow Mask is well suited for patients that either have a short face or narrow nose bridge. It is usually advised for those who have difficulty fitting the nasal mask as the pressurized air tends to leak to the area of the eyes. With the nasal pillow mask, nothing obstructs the area above the nostrils. As a result, it is the suitable option for patients who are claustrophobic.
Just like traditional nasal masks, nasal pillows are great for patients that sleep with closed mouths and have no trouble inhaling and exhaling through their nostrils.
3. Full Face Masks- Just as its name suggests, full face masks cover the area of the mouth and the nose. These masks are made of a hard plastic like frame and a soft inner cushion lying against the face. It also comes in a head gear form consisting of a forehead brace and the straps. Patients who breathe with their mouths open are prescribed to use full face masks.
Finding the Right Size
When it comes to finding the right mask size, there is no industry standard. As a result, brands like Philips Respironics and Fisher Paykel CPAP Mask are not the same. The sizing options of such masks range from petite, extra small, small, medium, large, and extra large. In order to find the size, the patient needs to try on the mask to determine the right one needed. This will also help ensure that the mask has been put on correctly.
Manufacturers of CPAP nasal masks usually offer size gauges that help serve as a point of reference in determining the appropriate mask size. But since each patient has unique facial features, these gauges are not always accurate. Typically speaking, the facial features of the individual that are being considered include the following:
4. Surface area of upper lip.
5. Width of nose bridge.
6. Width of nose base.
7. Length of the nose, measured from the bridge to the base.
8. Distance between the eyes.
9. Overall head circumference.
Apart from the size of the nosal mask itself, its cushions also come in a variety of sizes. However, there are some companies that accept customizing the size of the cushion to accommodate patients with either a small or large head circumference.
How to Determine the Right Mask Fit
As recommended, the best way to determine if the CPAP nosal mask fits you properly is to try each one on. The general rule of both nasal masks and CPAP nasal pillow masks is that they should rest on your upper lip; or the skin between your top lip and the base of your nose. When you’re fitting either of the two types of masks, make sure that you pay attention to this area of your face. The bottom of the frame should not be touching your top lip area.
Once you have selected the size and style of the mask, you have to properly adjust it prior to sleeping. You can do this by switching the machine on and loosening the straps of the mask. When you lay down to your sleeping position, slowly pull the straps down just until you find a good seal. This is the best way you can ensure that the mask will work properly and that you won’t have a difficult time using the CPAP machine.
Always remember that the first few times you use the CPAP machine will be a bit weird and uncomfortable. It just takes a little getting used to but in the end, using the machine will be well worth it and good for your health. After the first few times you use the machine, you’ll start feeling the difference of how the machine can help you get a good night’s sleep.