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What Are the Different CPAP Alternatives?

C. K. Lanz
C. K. Lanz

Cpap alternatives for patients with sleep apnea include other adjustable airway pressure devices, oral appliances, and surgery. Additionally, some patients will benefit from treatment of associated medical conditions that may be causing sleep apnea or from lifestyle changes if it is a mild case. Cpap is the preferred treatment option for sleep apnea but can be uncomfortable for patients to use. Often a doctor will attempt to make modifications to pressure settings and the mask before suggesting cpap alternatives.

A cpap machine aids respiratory ventilation by delivering air pressure via a face mask worn by patients while they sleep. This system can be uncomfortable for some people due to side effects, poor mask fit, and air pressure settings. As a result, non-compliance is the principal problem with cpap. Over time, some patients use cpap less frequently, eventually abandoning the treatment altogether.

A BiPAP breathing mask.
A BiPAP breathing mask.

For those patients who cannot tolerate a cpap machine, cpap alternatives are available. Other adjustable airway pressure devices may be more comfortable and effective, depending on the type of sleep apnea. Some devices, like apap machines, automatically adjust air pressure while the patient sleeps, providing the exact pressure needed in a given moment. Others, such as bpap units, increase pressure when the patient inhales and decrease it again upon exhalation, making it easier and more comfortable to breathe.

Surgery may help relieve the vibration that causes snoring.
Surgery may help relieve the vibration that causes snoring.

Other cpap alternatives include oral appliances that are usually available from a dentist. These appliances are made to keep the throat open by moving the jaw forward and are not as effective as cpap treatment but may be easier for certain patients to use. The dentist and patient will likely have to try a series of devices before deciding which one is most effective and comfortable. Using this type of cpap alternative requires follow-up appointments to ensure proper fit.

Surgery is another option for sleep apnea patients. Removing excess nose and throat tissue can relieve the vibration that causes snoring or upper air passage blockage. There are several different types of surgical procedures, including tracheostomy, uvulopalatopharyngoplasty, and maxillomandibular advancement. Removing enlarged tonsils or polyps can also help relieve sleep apnea.

Treating the underlying medical problem that may be causing sleep apnea is another alternative to using a cpap machine. Neuromuscular and heart problems can cause sleep apnea, so treating these conditions can sometimes bring relief. A doctor may also recommend weight loss and quitting smoking prior to more invasive treatment methods.

Cpap treatment can cause some side effects. Some patients may experience nasal problems like rhinitis or nasal congestion. More serious problems like Eustachian tube infection, dizziness, and dry eyes are rare. For some people, the cpap mask and straps can work like orthodontic headgear over time and move the jaw and teeth backward. This can cause a variety of temporomandibular disorders.

Although cpap alternatives exist, cpap is the preferred treatment method for people with sleep apnea. In most cases, the doctor will ask the patient to make modifications to the treatment before turning to alternatives. The patient may be asked to try several different types of masks or a different cpap model. The doctor may also recommend using a humidifier with the cpap machine. The air pressure settings may also be adjusted, especially if the patient’s weight has changed.

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    • A BiPAP breathing mask.
      A BiPAP breathing mask.
    • Surgery may help relieve the vibration that causes snoring.
      By: V&P Photo Studio
      Surgery may help relieve the vibration that causes snoring.