It involves using a CPAP machine that includes a mask or other device that fits over your nose or your nose and mouth, straps to position the mask, a tube that connects the mask to the machine’s motor, and a motor that blows air into the tube. CPAP is used to treat sleep-related breathing disorders including sleep apnea. It also may be used to treat preterm infants who have underdeveloped lungs.
If your doctor prescribes CPAP over other treatment options for your sleep apnea, your insurance will work with a medical device company to provide you with a CPAP machine and the disposable mask and tube. Your doctor will set up your machine with certain pressure settings. After using your machine for a while, your doctor and possibly your insurance company will want to check the data card from your machine to confirm that you are using your CPAP device and to see if the machine and its pressure settings are working to reduce or eliminate apnea events while you sleep.
For the treatment to work, you should use your CPAP machine every time you sleep at home, while traveling, and during naps. Getting used to using your CPAP machine can take time and requires patience. Your doctor may need to adjust your pressure settings for you. You may have to work with your sleep doctor to find the most comfortable mask that works best for you, to try the humidifier chamber in your machine, or to use a different CPAP machine that allows multiple or auto-adjusting pressure settings.
Some patients notice immediate improvements after starting CPAP treatment, such as better sleep quality, reduction or elimination of snoring, and less daytime sleepiness. Equally important are the long-term benefits that you cannot notice, such as helping to prevent or control high blood pressure, lowering your risk for stroke, and improving memory and other cognitive function.
Side effects of CPAP treatment may include congestion, runny nose, dry mouth, or nosebleeds. If you experience stomach discomfort or bloating, you should stop using your CPAP machine and contact your doctor immediately. Some masks can cause irritation. Your doctor can help you find ways to relieve these symptoms and adjust to using your CPAP machine. It is important that you clean your mask and tube every day and refill your medical device prescription at the right time to replace the mask and tube to ensure the treatment continues to work.
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The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) leads or sponsors many studies aimed at preventing, diagnosing, and treating heart, lung, blood, and sleep disorders.