CPAP is generally considered to be the best sleep apnea treatment available. CPAP forces air into your nose and/or mouth so that it pushes into your throat, holding it open and supplying you with oxygen, even if breathing stops. The drawbacks of CPAP are relatively minor, including facial irritation, nightmares, dry throat, and an unattractive appearance. Still, these drawbacks are often enough to keep people from using CPAP, which means that the treatment isn’t effective for a significant minority of patients.
What Is CPAP?
CPAP is short for continuous positive airway pressure. It consists of a pump that forces air into your body via a tube and mask assembly. The mask is strapped to the face, allowing air to enter through either the nose, mouth, or both. The pump sits on a bedside table or cabinet and is connected to the mask via a long air hose.
There are many variations on CPAP, but the two most popular are BiPAP and AutoPAP. BiPAP is bilevel airway pressure, which attempt to identify when you are trying to exhale so it can lower the air pressure and make it easier for you to exhale, while increasing the pressure again to facilitate inhaling.
AutoPAP is a CPAP variation that tries to adjust itself to your needs. For some people, this makes it easy to achieve and maintain the proper airway pressure.
Benefits of CPAP
- Eliminates sleep apnea
- Erases many sleep apnea effects
- Works on all forms of sleep apnea
- Treats even severe sleep apnea
When used properly, CPAP virtually eliminates sleep apnea. Research has confirmed that many of the health effect of sleep apnea can also be eliminated. This includes subjective complaints like daytime sleepiness and objective health effects like stroke risk and other cardiovascular complications.
Because CPAP supplies air no matter what your brain or lungs are doing, it helps people who have central sleep apnea as well as those that have obstructive sleep apnea. And because it can be adjusted to very high pressures, it can treat even the most severe forms of sleep apnea.
Disadvantages of CPAP
- Irritation in the nose and throat because of the elevated air pressure
- Irritation of the skin because of the mask and/or straps
- Feelings of claustrophobia or choking due to the mask
- Annoying pump sounds
Many problems can be avoided with proper selection and adjustment of the face mask as well as the pump pressure. But some people just don’t find a CPAP setup they can really sleep with or use regularly. As a result, people often either don’t use their CPAP often enough, don’t use it long enough at night, or stop using it altogether.
Obviously, when people aren’t using CPAP, they aren’t getting the benefits of the treatment. They still have untreated sleep apnea and are subject to all the same health risks. Then it’s crucial that we pursue CPAP treatment alternatives like oral appliance therapy and/or surgery.
The Somnomed and MicrO2 oral appliances (pictured above) are two great alternatives to the CPAP machine.
CPAP also doesn’t treat symptoms of temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ or TMD), and may even worsen them. When the CPAP mask is strapped to the face every night, it can force the jaw backward, causing or worsening dysfunction of the temporomandibular joint. This also increases restriction of the airway, so that sleep apnea may worsen with CPAP treatment, even though the treatment may keep you from experiencing the symptoms or consequences of worsened sleep apnea, if you keep using it.
Although poorly fitted oral appliances can also result in TMJ problems, when properly fitted, oral appliances can actually help people with TMJ and sleep apnea. Since half of all sleep apnea sufferers also have TMJ, this is an important consideration.
To learn whether CPAP is right for you or to start looking for an alternative in Detroit, please call (248) 480-0085 or the Michigan Center for TMJ & Sleep Wellness today.