According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, using the CPAP (continuous positive air pressure) medical device is one of the most effective methods of treating this distressing sleep disorder. The device consists of several components: the CPAP machine, the CPAP mask, tubes and fan, each playing its respective role in helping the user to breathe properly.
However, for optimal performance of the device, the CPAP mask is perhaps the most critical component as any discomfort of use, leakage or even sub-optimal functionality of the mask can completely mar the overall efficacy of the device.
CPAP mask: its purpose
What is the primary purpose of the CPAP mask? To understand the objective of a mask, let us first understand how the CPAP device works. About the size of a small shoebox, the machine has a tube that connects the machine to the mask, worn over the nose or nose and mouth. The machine works by pumping in air through the blocked air passage in the upper respiratory track in order to ‘throw open’ the air passage. The pressure is pre-measured and can vary according to patient needs.
Therefore, the primary role of the CPAP mask is to act as the conduit of air generated by the device and transmitted via the flexible tube and deliver the same to the respiratory tract to clear the obstruction. It is usually fastened to the head for firm fitting by a head gear or a strap. As is evident, any leakage or discomfort in fitting of the CPAP mask can directly impact the efficacy of the entire device, since the performance of the mask can reduce the air pressure generated by the machine.
The air blown in through the mask is at a pressure that is pre-determined. When delivered right, the pressure of air can open up the blocked air passage preventing the throat muscles from collapsing while the patient is asleep. This allows the sleep apnea patient to breathe normally.
CPAP mask: to each unto his or her own
There are plenty of varieties of masks available to suit individual needs. Essentially made from silicone plastic, they can be:
- Nasal apnea breathing mask – recommended for starters of CPAP therapy. This covers the entire nose and fitted on the head by an elastic strap.
- CPAP mask with nasal cushion that seals the nose completely. Many consider this to be better fitting and more comfortable than other mask designs and styles.
- Full face mask that covers the mouth as well as the nose. Recommended specially for people who breathe using their mouths.
How does it work?
Most sleep apnea masks are shaped triangular covering the nose, mouth or both. The mask helps in the transmission of compressed air from the CPAP device via the tube to which it remains connected during the entire period of use. This means that when choosing a CPAP mask, it is imperative that it assures snug fit. A comfortable fit ensures that there is zero to minimal chance of any air leakage and the recommended air pressure is delivered to the air passage without any hindrance.
In fact, it could be a better idea to go for a smaller size CPAP mask, in stead of something bigger, to ensure tighter and more comfortable fit.