Types of CPAP Masks and Their Pros and Cons
Sleep Apnea Treatment
Sleep apnea and other sleep disorders are a huge problem in the United States. About 22 million Americans have sleep apnea, and 80 percent of those individuals are undiagnosed. The importance of sleep apnea treatment is finally coming to light as the dangerous and life-threatening diseases that result from the untreated condition are making themselves known. The standard treatment for sleep apnea is CPAP therapy, which is continuous positive airway pressure.
Individuals with sleep apnea wear a CPAP mask to sleep that covers their nose or nose and mouth. A hose connects the mask and CPAP machine. The CPAP machine is what pumps the pressurized air into the airway to ensure that it does not collapse or close during sleep. This type of treatment is proven to be effective for sleep apnea; however, compliance with it is a problem. Up to 83 percent of patients are not compliant with their CPAP therapy. Research shows that six hours of CPAP therapy a night leads to an improved daily functioning and less daytime sleepiness. Some patients report using their CPAP machine for less than four hours a night. There are many reasons that patients are not compliant with therapy, and uncomfortable masks are a common reason.
Types of Sleep Apnea Masks
There are now multiple types of CPAP masks available, so it is essential that patients find one that they are comfortable with. The following are three different types of CPAP masks available:
This type of CPAP mask covers the nose from the bridge to the upper lip area. The nasal mask works well for high-pressure settings because it gives an indirect airflow to the airway. This mask is recommended to patients who:
- Move a lot in their sleep
- Require a high-pressure setting
- Want a variety of mask options to choose from
- Prefer a natural feeling airflow
Pros of the nasal CPAP mask include:
- Natural and indirect airflow
- More useful than nasal pillows for high-pressure settings
- Multiple styles and fits are available to fit most facial features and structures
Cons to the nasal mask include:
- Not suitable for mouth breathing patients, unless a chin strap is used to keep their mouth closed
- Can irritate the forehead or bridge of nose from mask pressure
- If the user has any blockage of the sinuses such as a cold or allergies, pressure cannot get to the airway
- Not suitable for patients with a deviated septum, enlarged turbinate’s, or narrowed or collapsed nasal valve
Nasal pillows are a small, lightweight, and compact option for patients with low to moderate pressure settings. The nasal pillows require only minimal contact with the patients face. The mask rests at the patient’s nasal entrance and creates a seal. They are not suitable for high-pressure prescriptions because the direct airflow to the nostrils can be uncomfortable with too high of a setting.
Nasal pillows are best for patients who:
- Move a lot in their sleep
- Have claustrophobia with larger masks
- Breathe through their nose
- Have facial hair
Pros of the nasal pillow masks include:
- Nasal pillows allow more vision than traditional masks, allowing patients to watch TV or read before going to sleep.
- Because there is no coverage over the nose patients can wear their glasses with the mask
- There is less air leakage because air is directed right into the nasal passages
Cons of the nasal pillow:
- Higher incidences of nosebleeds and nasal dryness
- Not ideal for mouth breathers
Full Face Mask
A full-face CPAP mask covers the entire mouth and nose. Because this type of mask covers a large area of the face, a seal is created over both airways. A full-faced mask is perfect for high-pressure settings and mouth breathers.
A full-face mask is best for patients who:
- Sleep on their back
- Have allergies
Pros of the full-face mask:
- Work well for high CPAP pressure settings
- The wider surface area makes the pressure more tolerable for the patient
Cons of the full-face mask:
- Air leakage is more common due to the larger surface area of the mask
- Dry eyes are a common complaint due to air leaking out the top of the mask
- The bulkiness makes it hard to sleep on the stomach or side
- Hard to wear glasses, watch TV, or read due to the size of the mask
How to Clean a CPAP Mask
It is imperative to keep CPAP masks and other sleep apnea equipment clean. A CPAP cleaner such as VirtuCLEAN is the easiest way to do this. You simply plug the CPAP cleaning device into your CPAP machine and turn it on. It uses ozone to thoroughly clean and sanitize your equipment.