Continuous positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine is a device used to treat people who have problems with breathing. It is primarily used to treat sleep apnea. However, continuous positive airway pressure can also help patients with other breathing problems, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and neuromuscular problems.
In some people, the airway collapses during sleep. This creates an obstruction in the airway, which is often called obstructive sleep apnea. Breathing becomes impaired and oxygen levels decrease in the blood. Other hazards of sleep apnea include morning headaches, fatigue, and an increased chance of cardiac problems.
Continuous positive airway pressure delivers pressure into the lungs to prevent these problems. The pressure helps keep the throat from collapsing during sleep. It also helps expand the lungs and make breathing easier. Oxygen can also be attached to a CPAP machine to improve oxygen levels in the blood.
A sleep study will need to be performed by a sleep technologist prior to using a continuous positive pressure airway machine. During the study, the technologist will monitor the patient’s stages of sleep, heart rate, and oxygen level, as well as watch for abnormalities. Once it is determined CPAP is needed, an appropriate pressure level will be determined by the study. A patient should not change his machine's pressure settings without talking to his doctor first.
CPAP is given through either a nasal mask or nasal prongs worn by the patient. The mask or prongs are attached to tubing, which is attached to the machine. Most machines for home use are small. Usually they are about the size of a shoe box.
Some people may develop side effects when using continuous positive airway pressure. If a nasal CPAP mask is used and does not fit properly, it can cause discomfort. It’s important for patients to be sure the mask fits snuggly, but is not too tight when it is first fitted.
CPAP can also be drying to the nose. When the nose becomes dry the body may respond by producing extra mucus to provide moisture in the nose. This can lead to nasal congestion. A heated humidifier can be attached to the CPAP machine. This provides moisture to the air being delivered from the machine.
Other side effects from using continuous positive airway pressure may include, a headache and air in the stomach. If side effects continue, the pressure on the CPAP may need to be adjusted. This should not be done without consulting your doctor.