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Choosing the right CPAP mask

Once you have been prescribed continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) for the treatment of Obstructive Sleep Apnea, you will need to choose, among other things, the mask you will use for your treatment. This step is one of the most crucial in determining the success and comfort of the therapy.

There are many styles of CPAP masks available. Selecting a mask based on how it delivers the air is a good starting point. The first thing you need to establish is your natural way of breathing at night (through the mouth, nose or both). Secondly, determine if you are sensitive to enclosed spaces, in which case you should consider a mask with a more open field of vision. Work closely with your doctor and CPAP equipment supplier to determine the style of a CPAP mask that is right for you. Here are the common styles of CPAP masks and the description of instances they are best for.

Nasal pillow mask

A small nasal pillow that sits beneath the nose supplies the air pressure. The mask is held in place by either side straps or a ball-cap style headgear. This style of mask has become very popular with the CPAP users in recent years. This style of masks is best if:

  • You experience anxiety or claustrophobia wearing larger-sized styles of masks that obstruct your field of vision
  • You want to wear glasses while wearing the mask
  • You want full field of vision to watch television or read while wearing the mask
  • You sleep on your abdomen or on your side (ball-cap style head gear should be used in this case as it does not have side straps)

Nasal cushion mask

This is a slightly larger style of masks compared to pillow masks. The nasal mask fits over the nose and seals to your face with a foam cushion or a soft inflatable seal, providing air pressure to your nose. Side straps hold the mask in place. This style of masks is best if:

  • You have been prescribed high air pressure – the mask seals well to your face without having to excessively tighten the headgear
  • You move in your sleep – the headgear and the cushion can move around and flex without losing the seal

Full-face mask

This is a large triangular mask that fits both over the nose and the mouth. The mask seals to the face with a foam cushion or a soft inflatable seal, providing air pressure to both your nose and your mouth. Side straps keep the mask in place. This style of masks is best if:

  • You breathe through your mouth at night
  • You have nasal congestion or an obstruction which makes breathing through your nose difficult
  • You have been prescribed high air pressure – the mask seals well to your face without having to excessively tighten the headgear
  • You move in your sleep – the headgear and the cushion can move around and flex without losing the seal
  • You wake up with a dry mouth when using a nasal mask – full-face masks supply air to both nose and mouth and will prevent the mouth from drying (in combination with the heated air humidifier of your CPAP machine)

Oral mask

The mask is composed of a small soft mouthpiece that supplies air directly to the mouth and a soft flap cover that fits over your lips and seals the mask to the face. A single side strap holds the mask in place. This style of masks is best if:

  • You breathe primarily through your mouth at night
  • You have nasal congestion or an obstruction which makes breathing through your nose difficult
  • You experience anxiety or claustrophobia wearing larger-sized styles of masks that obstruct your field of vision
  • You want to wear glasses while wearing the mask
  • You want full field of vision to watch television or read while wearing the mask

Tips for choosing the mask that is right for you

Choosing the mask that is right for your personal needs and preferences is the single most important step in ensuring the success of the CPAP therapy. You should take great care in making this choice. Here are some tips to help you succeed in choosing the perfect mask for you:

  • Discuss the available options both with your doctor and the CPAP equipment supplier. Discuss the pros and cons of each mask style as it pertains to your personal needs
  • Try wearing many different styles of masks before making the selection. Do not simply settle on the first mask suggested to you by the supplier
  • Wear the mask while sitting up and lying down to ensure it feels comfortable in your natural sleeping position
  • Make sure the mask is convenient to use – you should be able to put it on and take it of easily and quickly
  • The mask should fit snugly to your face without causing any discomfort
  • Put on the mask with the hose attached and the air pressure being supplied to the mask. This will help to ensure that the mask seals properly to your face and that there are no air leaks
  • Try different sizes of masks. Just because you feel most comfortable in a particular size of one mask, this does not mean the same size is best for you with a different mask
  • Some CPAP equipment suppliers will allow you to try sleeping with the mask for a limited period of time before you buy it. Take advantage of this option to make sure the mask you chose is right for you
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SUCCESSFUL TREATMENT:

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  • Reduce feelings of daytime fatigue and sleepiness
  • Decrease oxidative stress and inflammation in the body
  • Improve the patient and their bed partners quality of lif
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