Dr. Douglas Dedo, MD

What is a CPAP Machine? – Answers from PalmBeachSinusDoctors

what is a cpap

What is a CPAP and how does it work?

It has probably been a while since you heard someone ask “What is a CPAP machine?” By now, someone in your family, one of your friends, or an office colleague you know has told you all about their CPAP machine. They perhaps have sleep apnea and rave about how much it helps them. But is the CPAP of a few years ago, the same as today’s? What’s the latest in CPAP machinery and how can you find out if one may be a good option for you?

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) is actually a form of therapy. The machine is just the mechanism for delivering the therapy. It has been the top treatment for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) for about 30 years. The way that it works is air is forced through tubes in a mask that help the patient keep their airways open.

Sleep Apnea

Patients who have trouble with sleep apnea often show symptoms such as snoring or waking up several times during the night from not being able to breathe. The problems lies with the airway not staying full open while they are sleeping. Usually, the tissues in the throat and around your tonsils starts to relax while you sleep. They can soften so much that it closes the space for air to travel. When this happens, your breathing can stop.

Perhaps you have heard someone wake themselves up with a loud snort or sucking in air? This is the brain forcing the person to wake up to breathe. When it happens multiple times per night, you are not getting enough oxygen to your body and the body’s systems. This results in feelings of fatigue throughout the day, and can lead to serious long-term health consequences. The CPAP machine is used to prevent the closing of the airways and ensure your body is getting all of the oxygen it needs to function properly.

What are the parts of a CPAP machine?

The type of machine and the air pressure to receive is based on a prescription from your doctor, typically a sleep specialist / Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) doctor.

Inside the CPAP machine is a fan, filter, and humidifier. This allow the unit to bring in air from surrounding areas, pressurize it, ensure it is clean, and warm and humidify it before it enters the mask. The air needs to be moist to prevent over-drying of your nasal and airway passages. While the humidification is not required, it is an option that many patients prefer to use, especially those who live in dry climates.

Is a CPAP easy to use?

For some people, starting to use a CPAP machine brings them the first full-night’s sleep they have had in a long time. Other people may find that they need time to get used to wearing the machine at night. It can feel a bit funny at first having air blown through the mask. But, as patients adjust to the CPAP, they start to notice improvements in their quality of life. Even patients who may have disliked their masks in the beginning, end up not being able to sleep without it later on. It just takes a little time. Fortunately, there are updated designs available that are less invasive and cumbersome. Plan a visit to Palm Beach Sinus Doctors to see which type may work best for you and your sleep apnea.