Side Effects of CPAP TherapyIs it Right for Me?
by Dr. Scott Bolding
Dealing with obstructive sleep apnea can be frustrating. No matter how much you sleep you keep waking up tired. It’s having a major impact on your life. You’re falling asleep at work or school. You wake up every morning with a headache.
If you have sleep apnea you know you need to get treatment as soon as possible. Because you need to get back to your life.
You’ve probably read or heard about CPAP therapy. And even though CPAP is the most popular treatment for sleep apnea, you want to make sure you get some more information before talking to your doctor about it. You’re wondering if there are any side effects of CPAP machines? Are there any risks of CPAP machines that you need to consider?
These are valid questions to ask of any medical procedure. The truth is that most treatments will come with some side effects. And you just need to weigh those side effects against the benefits. Ultimately, the decision of whether to choose CPAP therapy or another treatment option is up to you and your doctor. But it doesn’t hurt to do a little research on your own so you can ask better questions when you do have a consultation. Being aware of any CPAP side effects can help you both make better decisions for your health.
Let's Get Back to Normal.
It’s time to get the sleep you deserve. You don’t have to keep on living with the constant daytime sleepiness and other effects of sleep apnea. Schedule a consultation with our sleep apnea specialists today and start getting your life back.
What is CPAP Therapy?
First, let’s do a quick review of what a CPAP machine actually is.
CPAP machines help to treat obstructive sleep apnea by keeping your airway open while you sleep. They do this by blowing pressurized air through a mask all night. The pressure gradually increases while you sleep. This air creates a cushion that keeps your airway clear so you can breathe while you sleep.
Benefits of CPAP Machines
CPAP therapy is the gold standard of OSA treatment. It’s been used successfully since 1980.
There are many benefits of using a CPAP machine to treat sleep apnea. Many people find that these benefits outweigh any side effects of using CPAP therapy.
The main benefit is that it helps you get the sleep you need. Because the machine keeps you breathing all night long your body doesn’t have to wake itself up multiple times a night. That means you are able to sleep all night. And you get deeper sleep as well. Because your body has to keep aking up you’re never able to get into REM sleep. This is why you usually wake up so tired when you have sleep apnea.
When you get better sleep everything in your life gets a little better too. You have more energy and get more done during the day. With CPAP machine you breathe better, which means you sleep better. And sleeping better means you can get back to your life.
What Are the Side Effects of CPAP?
A common side effect of CPAP therapy, aerophagia happens because of the high-pressure settings on the CPAP machine. Because the pressurized air is hard to breathe air can be pushed back into your esophagus and down into your stomach.
This leads to a build-up of air in your stomach, resulting in bloating and abdominal discomfort.
Dry, Stuffy Nose and Nosebleeds
Nasal congestion is a normal side effect of CPAP therapy. The air blown into your nose can dry things out. This often leads to dry or stuffy noses. Nosebleeds are a common side effect of CPAP therapy.
The materials in the mask can also cause skin irritation, especially in patients with sensitive skin. If your mask doesn’t fit properly it can also rub against your skin, causing red marks.
You may also develop upper respiratory infections or sinus infections. This usually happens when you don’t clean your mask enough. Bacteria can get into your mouth, throat, and lungs through your mask.
Finally, probably the most common issue people have with CPAP machines is claustrophobia. Claustrophobia happens because the CPAP mask is over your face. Most people experience this side effect when they first start using CPAP therapy. However, most people find they are able to adjust over time. However, for some people, this is enough for them to not use their CPAP machine at all.
How to Deal with the CPAP Side Effects
If you are experiencing any of these CPAP side effects you want to know how to deal with them. Knowing how to deal with CPAP side effects can help you be prepared as you move forward with treatment.
Make Sure You Have the Right Mask
One of the best ways to deal with skin irritation and other side effects is by making sure you have the right mask. CPAP masks come in different types and sizes. Your doctor will be able to help you figure out the best one for you.
And you can always change your mask if you experience skin irritation or discomfort at any point.
The different types of CPAP masks include:
- Nasal masks
- Nasal pillows
- Full face masks
Turn Down the Pressure
If you are experiencing aerophagia or nasal problems you may want to consider adjusting the pressure on your machine. However, you should NOT do this on your own. Adjusting pressure on your CPAP machine on your own is very dangerous. If you think you need an adjustment talk to your doctor first. They can help you figure out the right settings for your specific needs.
Clean Your Mask Regularly
You can avoid infections and skin irritation if you clean your machine regularly. Clean your mask on a daily basis using warm water and soap. If you’re using a cushioned mask replace the cushion every two weeks to keep it fresh.
Try a Humidifier
Finally, a humidifier can do wonders in terms of dealing with a dry nose, nasal congestion, and nosebleeds. CPAP humidifiers help soften the flow of air and keep your nose moist.
Other Treatment Options if CPAP Side Effects Are Too Much
Most people find that the benefits outweigh the side effects of CPAP machines. But others have a hard time adjusting. In fact, some studies have shown that only about 50% of CPAP patients use their machines long-term. If you find that the side effects of CPAP therapy are too much for you, there are other treatment options.
Oral appliances are another great treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. People with mild OSA find that oral appliances are less bulky and cumbersome than the CPAP machine. Oral appliances are also great for people who travel a lot since you don’t have to carry a big machine around all the time.
Sleep apnea can also be permanently cured through MMA surgery. Of course, surgery is more invasive so you need to make sure this is the best option for you. MMA surgery is used for patients who have a small airway due to an underdeveloped jaw. MMA surgery actually has a very high success rate at 90%, so it’s definitely something to look into.
Principe, C. del. (2022, July 7). 7 Most Common CPAP Machine Side Effects (and Ways to Avoid Them). CPAP Supplies. Retrieved September 19, 2022, from https://cpapsupplies.com/blog/preventing-resolving-sleep-apnea-side-effects
Summer, J. (2022, July 19). Common CPAP Side Effects. Sleep Foundation. Retrieved September 19, 2022, from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/cpap/cpap-side-effects
Whittle, M. (2022, September 15). Common CPAP Side Effects & Prevention. The Sleep Doctor. Retrieved September 19, 2022, from https://thesleepdoctor.com/cpap/cpap-machine-side-effects/
Is CPAP Therapy Right for You?
Weighing the Side Effects and Benefits
Knowing the side effects of CPAP therapy can help you as you decide on the right sleep apnea treatment. Before moving forward you should decide if the benefits outweigh the side effects. And for most people they do. However, it’s ok if you think another option will work better.
You should always talk things over with a doctor that understands how the airway works and who cares about your situation. Our specialists at PRECiDENT are ready to help in any way we can. Our goal is always to help you find the treatment that is right for you. We want you to breathe better, sleep better, and get back to your life.