What is a CPAP Machine?

What is CPAP Machine
Written by Piotr Sawicki

What is CPAP? Common knowledge is that CPAP machines, short for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, are used for the management of Sleep apnea. While this is very true, it is not the only condition that is managed by use of a CPAP machine. In fact people with respiratory tract problems will often find themselves in need of one.

An example includes individuals who require help in the oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange.

CPAP machines provide a constant air pressure which is delivered via a hose and mask. This helps to keep the air passageways open for easier breathing. A misconception is that the pressure is created through the pumping of air. This is only half the story. The mask also plays a major part by closing any spaces through which the air can escape. This results in the pressure needed to keep the airways open.

There are many varied ways through which air pressure is delivered using CPAP machines. This includes full face masks, nasal pillows or nose masks. The basic idea is the same however. They need to close out all spaces through which air can escape. Air pressure that finds its way out of the mask will be rendered useless.

Different individuals require different levels of pressure. In order to determine the best level for you, a sleep test will be conducted. This will require you spending the night at the lab where the doctor will place you on a CPAP. They will then adjust the pressure until they get to the right one.

Challenges of using the CPAP Machine

There are some common problems that patience face with the use of CPAP machines. The main one is the mask. Patients claim that they find it too cumbersome on the face. The air pressure created is also uncomfortable to breathe against.

Some patients have anxiety issues and will often find the experience too claustrophobic. This causes them to panic during therapy. In order to get over the situation, it is advisable to practice wearing the mask without the pressure. This will get you psychologically prepared. You can also start by putting minimal pressure enabling you to get used to breathing against it.

Patients will also experience minor problems such as a runny nose, sinus infections, dry airways and congestion of the nose. It’s important to note however that these are only temporary and will go away with continuous use. They should not be the reason to discontinue your CPAP therapy.

Uses of CPAP Machines

As we have seen, the most common use of CPAP machines is the management of OSA or Obstructive Sleep Apnea. However, there are other conditions that can be managed with this machine. These include Hypoxia, Respiratory failure, congestive heart failure and COPD.

Types of CPAP Machines

There are different types of CPAP machines. Each is suited for different individuals better than others. When setting out to buy one, ensure you are aware of the characteristics of each.  This will help you in making the best decision for yourself.

One type of CPAP starts you off at a low pressure. It then increases the pressure with the duration of time you use it. The main benefit of this type of machine is that the irritation that is as a result of continuous pressure is prevented. 

The second type is the BIPAP. It stands for bi-level positive airway pressure machine. It takes things to the next level as compared to a CPAP and is a popular choice for people with obstructive apnea. The BIPAP allows you to exhale with less pressure.

There is a third kind known as the APAP or the auto-titrating positive airway pressure machine. It can raise or lower air pressure as is needed.

CPAP Humidifier

One of the drawbacks of conventional CPAP machines was the drying effects that they caused. The patients reported a dry nose passage as well as dry throats.

To help counter this, modern CPAP machines now come with a humidifier. It helps to keep the air ways moist and prevents inflammation. However, this creates the perfect environment for bacteria to thrive.

CPAP Humidifier

It is important to ensure that the humidification system is cleaned regularly to prevent disease causing microorganism from breeding. You can do this by following a couple of easy steps. Let’s look at them below:

  1. Detach the chamber of the humidifier from the CPAP. This will stop water from reaching the CPAP.
  2. Use soapy warm water to clean the chamber.
  3. Rinse away with clean water then use a tissue to dry it out. Ensure it stays clear from direct sunlight
  4. Use either sterile or distilled water to fill the chamber of the humidifier. This is because normal tap water may be laden with chemicals that can cause damage to the humidifier.
  5. Every once a week, remember to fill the chambers with a mixture of white vinegar and water for a complete 20 minutes. The ratio should be 1:3 with vinegar and water respectively.

CPAP maintenance tips

We cannot stress the importance of cleaning your CPAP. While it can help you get rid of certain serious health problems, without proper care, it could also get you sick. How can you ensure proper maintenance of your CPAP for a long service life? Let’s look at a few tips below:

  1. Make it a routine every morning to clean your CPAP.
  2. Keep your equipment away from direct sunlight. This will only cause damage to them.
  3. Avoid using bleach to clean your CPAP
  4. If you have to clean without a SoClean sanitizer, use sterile or distilled water.
  5. In case of malfunctions, order new parts such as data cards and chords.

Conclusion of What is CPAP

There are many factors that combine to make the right CPAP equipment. Knowing them in detail will arm you with the right information to make a wise and informed choice especially when getting yourself a CPAP. You will be able to apply proper maintenance procedures as well as correct use for a productive CPAP therapy.  

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Piotr Sawicki

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