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Cpap Masks - Finding The Right One

Mar 29, 2008
CPAP machines are a boon to anyone who suffers from sleep apnea, but if CPAP masks don't fit correctly, the machines can't do their jobs properly. In fact, improper mask fit is one of the most common reasons that patients stop using their CPAP machines, frustrating their doctors and ending up suffering for years from the complications of sleep apnea, including exhaustion, depression and a compromised immune system.

There are dozens of different styles of CPAP masks. Choosing the right style depends partly upon what kind your doctor recommends, how you sleep at night and the size of you head as well as what you are comfortable wearing. Let's take a look at some of the styles that are currently available:

Triangular CPAP Masks

These are the most common style of facemask and fit over the nose or, in some cases, the nose and mouth if you are a mouth breather. The mask is usually cushioned with some type of vinyl, silicone or gel for a soft fit that won't chafe. In some of the more expensive models, you can heat the gel and mold it to the face for a custom fit that's more comfortable and will be less likely to leak.

Triangular masks have adjustable straps that go over and around the head to hold the mask in place and keep the seal tight. Once these are adjusted, quick release clips make it easy to take the mask on and off without having to readjust the fit each night. Some masks that fit over the mouth also have a chinstrap.

Options on Masks

Many triangular CPAP masks include a headgear that rests against the forehead for added stability. Some will have just a small gel pad, others a longer band that rests against the forehead. These vary from quite small to rather large, depending on how much stability the wearer wants versus how cumbersome they feel the headgear is.

Keep in mind that the weight of masks can vary depending on the materials - some of the gels will be heavier than vinyl or plastic, although they will be more comfortable and have more give to them. You will need to carefully compare the various features to determine what works best for you.

Oral CPAP Masks

These aren't as commonly used, but if you're a mouth breather, an oral mask is the right choice. This fits over the mouth to allow breathing through the mouth and is used in conjunction with a heated humidifier to provide warm, moist air through the pressurized air system. The mask will also plug the nostrils to form a tight seal and prevent breathing through the nose.

Nasal Pillows

A much different style of CPAP mask is the nasal pillow. Rather than fitting over the entire nose, nasal pillows feature two small pieces that are inserted into the nostrils and lead to tubing that runs directly over the patient's head, assisted by head straps. This is an option that's popular with side sleepers and patients with facial hair who sometimes have difficulty getting a proper seal with a triangular mask.

Hybrid Mask

There are some hybrid masks that combine several PCAP therapy options in one full-face mask. These appliances offer air delivery through nasal pillows, through a mouth appliance or through a combination of the two. Hybrid masks are often favored by those who are bothered by the pressure points forehead and nose caused by other masks and is also often recommended for patients with obstructive sleep apnea.

Be sure to talk to your doctor about which type of CPAP mask is most appropriate for your type of sleep apnea. If after a few weeks you still aren't able to sleep with the mask you have, try another model of the same type of mask. There are many different CPAP masks available so that you can find one that not allows you to breathe freely, but sleep comfortably without the mask interfering with your comfort.
About the Author
Andy West is a freelance writer for http://www.CPAP-supply.com , which offers a wide variety of CPAP masks and other CPAP equipment and supplies.
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