What You Should Know About CPAP Side Effects
Your doctor has just diagnosed you with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and has recommended that you use a continuous positive airway pressure machine, or CPAP. It is not the end of the world, though you may have to overcome a few hurdles before everything is copasetic again. Such hurdles may include side effects from the CPAP nasal mask. Below are a few of the more common complaints:
• Discomfort: This can be due to a variety of reasons including the mask being too large, small, or tight which can cause red marks on the face or claustrophobia. If a fitting problem is the issue, it may simply be a matter of finding the mask that is right for you. Red marks can be due to skin irritation or allergy to the rubber or plastics being used. There are a number of different masks to choose from, and mask pads for the straps may be purchased to help cushion the face. Another possibility is tightening the headgear a little bit at a time on each side. Those with claustrophobia will benefit by increasing the use of the mask in longer and longer increments.
• Excess gas in the stomach: Gas pains, or aerophagia, are caused by the trapping of air in the stomach. This occurs due to the flow of air by the CPAP machine into the body that is ultimately being swallowed when the head tilts forward and the airway is blocked. This typically occurs when a person sleeps with either multiple pillows, or one very large pillow. In order to remedy this, use the CPAP chinstrap to keep from breathing through your mouth while in therapy. Another method is using a wedge pillow to elevate the head. However, as sleeping with the head aligned with the body is recommended, losing pillows altogether is preferred.
• Ear pressure: It is called the continuous positive air “pressure” machine for a reason. The CPAP machine increases air pressure in the body. If a person experiences congestion from illnesses like cold or flu, sinuses or allergies, it will block the ear canals, causing an imbalance of pressure throughout the body and pressure of the head.
• Dryness of the nose, mouth or throat: This can be a troubling problem for many people that use the CPAP as it can cause inflammation, runny nose, pain, nasal congestion and in some cases, nosebleeds. The fast-moving air irritates the inner tissues of the throat and nose which are already under extreme exertion in preparing air for the lungs. Many CPAP machines now have a humidifier that can be attached, adding moisture to the incoming air so the flow is easier on the body. In some cases, a corticosteroid nasal spray may be recommended.
Other common complaints that tend to cause patients to quit the therapy include:
• Noise of the machine
• Air being too hot or too cold
• Sleep interruption
• Mask leakage
• Intimacy discouragement
Although CPAP is an effective therapy for many people to minimize the effects of sleep apnea, to go all the way and completely cure OSA—and stop snoring in its tracks—check out the radiofrequency tongue ablation (RFA) procedure.
This surgery has been around for 10 years, but it began as an invasive procedure performed in the operating room. Thanks to the groundbreaking advancements from the physicians at the Sleep Apnea Treatment Centers of America (SATCOA) tongue ablation can now be performed in-office.
Five to eight treatments are performed with the use of only a local anesthetic, and you are able to return to work or daily activities following the procedure.
A treating physician uses an instrument to aim energy into the muscle at the base of the tongue. Following this step, the tissue tightens, keeping the tongue from blocking the airway while sleeping.
For more information about the SATCOA RFA procedure, click here.