Those who have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, or suspect that they might have the condition, often find themselves wondering about treatment options. One of the most well-known treatments for obstructive sleep apnea sufferers is continuous positive airway pressure, (CPAP) therapy. This therapy option uses a machine and attached mask, which helps people with sleep apnea breathe easier during sleep.
How does a CPAP mask work?
CPAP machines increase air pressure in the throat so that the airway does not collapse during sleep. A CPAP machine is made up of three basic parts, an air pump, tubing and a mask. There are three basic types of CPAP mask:
- Nasal pillow masks use soft prongs that fit into the nose.
- Nasal masks cover only entire nose (this mask type is most common).
- Full-face masks cover the entire nose.
The tubing links the air pump to the mask. The pump pulls in air from the room and adds pressure. This air blows through the tube and mask and into the throat. This pressure keeps the throat open during sleep.
The Issue with CPAP Masks
In order for a CPAP machine to do its job, the mask should fit comfortably and securely. Leaks can lead to noise, trouble sleeping and dry, irritated eyes. Other CPAP issues include water in the tubing, nose and throat dryness as well as irritation to the skin from the mask. The key to success with CPAP machines is finding both the right pressure and the right mask.
For many, choosing a mask is a matter of comfort. Some prefer a nasal pillow for its unobtrusiveness, while the prongs irritate others. Likewise, a full-face mask feels constricting for some, while a nasal mask might not provide enough coverage for others.
Finding the right mask can take some time. Working with your CPAP supplier and ENT doctor to determine the best option is advisable.
What Are Sleep Apnea Treatment Options?
For many, using a CPAP machine to treat obstructive sleep apnea is ideal. There is virtually no waiting period, the treatment works right away, and no surgery is involved. Today’s machines are quiet, efficient and easy to use. There are very few side effects and the machines treat obstructive sleep apnea very effectively.
Using a CPAP, however, is not the best choice for everyone. For some, it can cause discomfort, which leads to sleep apnea patients who don’t use their CPAP machines as instructed and let their obstructive sleep apnea go untreated. Uncompliant CPAP users are at a greater risk for significant health concerns, including high blood pressure and heart disease.
The good news is that there are additional treatment options for those who don’t feel comfortable using CPAP machines. Many of these treatments are minimally invasive and provide great relief for those dealing with sleep apnea and other related sleep disorders. Some options include:
- Oral appliances: This non-invasive treatment option has a short adjustment time and a higher compliance rate over CPAP therapy.
- Balloon Sinuplasty: This minimally invasive procedure opens sinus cavities and helps sinus related sleep apnea.
- Palate Coblation®: Another minimally invasive procedure that utilizes radio frequency energy to stiffen the soft palate.
- The Pillar® Procedure: With the insertion of small implants, this minimally invasive procedure stiffens the soft palate.
- Coblation® Turbinate Reduction: Using radio frequency, the size of nasal turbinates is reduced.
- Radiofrequency Ablation of the Tongue: Radiofrequency is used to tighten and shrink the base of the tongue, which reduces the symptoms of snoring and sleep apnea.
The right treatment option will depend on the root cause of your snoring and sleep apnea condition.
There is no reason to live with snoring or the harmful health effects of obstructive sleep apnea. Today’s technology makes it easier than ever for snorers, sleep apnea sufferers and their bed partners to find relief and get restful sleep. To learn more about your options, make an appointment with one of the board-certified otolaryngologists at eos sleep.