CPAP stands for continuous positive airway pressure and is often called “the mask,” although changes in technology have made many different styles of CPAP available.

CPAP/Bilevel therapy is the preferred treatment option for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) because it is non-invasive (unlike surgery).  It is the only proven method to treat OSA and you can get significant improvement instantaneously.  Most insurances, including state funded insurances (Medicare/Medicaid) pay for CPAP/Bilevel therapy.

But there are some common side effects users should be aware of that sometimes result in discouragement or dissatisfaction.  These are:

  1. Nasal/mouth discomfort
  2. Dryness of nose and/or throat, both of which can be caused by not having a heated humidifier or needing to turn your humidifier to a higher setting.
  3. Water in the tube, usually caused by the humidity level being set too high or the need to insulate the tube.  A fleece liner for the tubing is the best method for preventing water from forming inside the tube.
  4. Redness on the face where the mask touches the skin.  If you experience this, you should contact your CPAP/Bilevel provider or call your physician as soon as possible.
  5. Too much air.  In this case, you should try desensitizing yourself to CPAP by wearing the unit for a while before going to bed (such as while watching TV) to help alleviate anxiety.  Your doctor may also want to decrease pressure temporarily.  And you can check to determine if your machine has “ramp” capability, in which case you should activate it or have it set to a longer ramp time and /or a lower ramp start pressure, if applicable.

For some people, the side effects can lead to abandoning CPAP.  This is usually avoidable simply by contacting your CPAP provider or physician.  Given a full opportunity, CPAP/Bilevel therapy can turn life around for the person suffering with OSA.

Please feel free to visit our CPAP forum  and participate in the interactive discussion among CPAP users and treatment professionals.

Cody Glorioso, PSG T, DME Director