Tips on How to Handle Issues with Your CPAP Machine

Can’t Breathe out Against the Pressure

The most complicated adjustment to make when beginning to use continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is learning to breathe out against the pressure. Fortunately, some effective changes can be made. First, if you find this most troublesome as you are falling asleep, the machine’s pressure can start lower and slowly increase as you fall asleep (sometimes called a ramp function). In some circumstances, a bi-level, BiPAP, or cflex setting that alternates between an inhalation and exhalation pressure can be helpful. If this problem persists, it might be that the pressure setting is too high for you.

Mask Makes You Feel Claustrophobic

Using CPAP machines
This is an issue that you will recognize immediately. If, after applying the mask for the first time, you begin to feel smothered, have a sense of panic washing over you, your heart rate, and breathing rate increase, with intense fear and need to escape, you are likely experiencing claustrophobia. If this occurs, you will benefit from a little extra help. It may be possible to find a mask that does not enclose your nose, such as nasal pillows. You may overcome the discomfort by practicing with the machine while doing something relaxing, like watching television. If it is simply unbearable, you may want to seek out alternative CPAP therapies. You should also sanitize your device regularly.

Swallowing Air

Swallowing air is a source of significant discomfort for some users of CPAP. It can leave you burping and feeling bloated. This may occur if your pressure is set too high. To correct it, you may have to let the pressure decrease, get a pressure ramp setting, or perhaps even a new titration study.

Sores and Marks on Your Face

It is relatively common to get some minor pressure marks on your face when you wear a CPAP mask. If these marks are excessive, it may be due to an ill-fitting mask. If this is the case, you may need to try a different size or even choose a new mask. Some people find it helpful to switch between different mask styles from one night to the next so that the pressure points vary. If your skin becomes irritated by the mask, a skin barrier such as facial cream or petroleum jelly might be useful.

You should not get significant sores on your face from a CPAP mask, so if this occurs, you should let your medical provider know.

Mask Smells Funny

It is essential to keep your CPAP equipment clean and follow standard cleaning instructions. If you do not, there is a chance that your mask and tubing may begin to smell funny. Cleaning regularly is especially important if you have recently been sick.

If your CPAP mask develops a smell that you cannot clean away, you may need to look into getting new equipment. It should likewise be noted that new equipment may have a peculiar “new” smell that you will become used to. If you have a humidifier, be sure only to put distilled water in the reservoir.

Mask Fills With Water

This is a prevalent complaint, mainly if you use a heated humidifier. The extra moisture makes it more comfortable to breathe, but it can also collect condensation within the tubing and CPAP mask. This becomes especially true if you sleep in a cooler room. It may be necessary to turn down your humidifier temperature or find a way to keep the CPAP tubing slightly warmer, such as putting it under the blankets. Sometimes placing the CPAP machine on the floor will help the extra moisture flow back down rather than into your face.

Dry Mouth When You Use Your CPAP

In general, you should not experience significant dry mouth when using a CPAP. If you do, this may suggest that your mouth is falling open with the mask on. The pressurized air will escape from your mouth, and this can make it extremely dry. If this occurs, you may find it helpful to try a heated humidifier or a chinstrap. You may wish to change to a different mask style that includes your mouth or even consider having your machine’s pressure adjusted.

Nose Is Too Congested to Use Your Mask

How to use CPAP machines
If you have a history of environmental allergies, nasal congestion, or a deviated septum, you may find it difficult to breathe through your nose when using a CPAP mask. It will be essential to maximize your breathing by keeping these issues under control.

A heated humidifier or even a saline nasal spray may help. Some individuals need to take medications to relieve their allergies, including potentially prescription nasal sprays. For those people who cannot breathe through their nose, it may be necessary to switch to a CPAP mask that includes the mouth or consider alternative therapies.

Your Symptoms Have Returned

Many patients feel an improvement in their excessive daytime sleepiness when they start to use CPAP. Over time, these symptoms may seem to recur. If this happens, you should have your equipment checked to ensure that it delivers the prescribed CPAP pressure. It may be necessary to have a new titration study or even have your CPAP pressure increased.

Resources and References: