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What to Look for When Buying a CPAP Machine
Did You Know?
To reap maximum benefits of CPAP therapy, it is essential that you breathe through the nose when wearing the CPAP mask. Mouth breathing can make the CPAP therapy less effective.

A CPAP machine is commonly recommended for people who suffer from sleep apnea and intense snoring. This is a sleep disorder in which breathing is momentarily interrupted during sleep. As a result, the person wakes up suddenly, gasping for air. These breathing pauses while asleep have been attributed to excessive relaxation of throat muscles, thereby partially blocking the air passages. CPAP machines prevent the throat tissues from collapsing by delivering constant flow of air through the airways.

The CPAP machine essentially consists of a mask that one has to wear over the face. The mask, that usually covers both the nose and the mouth, is attached with a tube connected to the CPAP machine. The machine has a small fan that generates air supply with a consistent pressure, which passes through the tube and finally reaches the mask, where it is delivered to the user. Nasal masks are also available that cover only your nose. On the other hand, wearing a full face mask allows nose or/and mouth breathing. People suffering from a deviated septum should go for a full face mask.

With so many models of CPAP machines available in the market, confusion may prevail about choosing the right one. CPAP therapy is useful only when the machine that your purchase suits your requirements. So, it is necessary that you buy a CPAP machine that caters to your needs.

Types of CPAP Machines

Once the doctor decides that you need CPAP therapy, it is essential to know the different types of CPAP machines available, and the different features that they come with.

Automatic CPAP Machines

These machines automatically alter the air pressure as per your requirements. For instance, if you are snoring, the machine can detect the event and may increase the air pressure to nullify the effect. Also, people who sleep on their back may need more air pressure than those who sleep sideways. The machine monitors your breathing activity accurately and adjusts the pressure settings accordingly to ensure adequate air delivery.

These machines can easily sense any disturbances in breathing patterns, and rectify them by increasing the air pressure. In other words, the machine responds to an untoward situation and corrects it before the throat tissues collapse and cause any airway obstruction. They not only read just air pressure, but also maintain it all night so that you get uninterrupted sleep for long hours. No wonder auto CPAP machines are the most sought after treatment for sleep apnea.

Basic CPAP Machines

These machines deliver fixed pressure and do not have any facility to sense any irregular breathing pattern during sleep. To put it simply, it is insensitive to abnormal breathing events that may occur while asleep. Once the specified pressure has been set, the machine delivers the same amount of pressure throughout the night, irrespective of your breathing pattern. As the machine is unable to respond to any disordered breathing events, users carry certain risk of getting sleep apnea.

BiPAP Machines

This breathing apparatus is often recommended for patients with complex form of sleep apnea, known as central sleep apnea. It is designed to deliver air supply at separate pressure levels for inhalation and exhalation. The usual CPAP machine provides a continuous flow of air at a predetermined pressure level, irrespective of whether you are breathing in or breathing out. This can cause difficulty exhaling air against the pressure. Machines tagged as BiPAP, an acronym for bilevel positive airway pressure, repeatedly switch between two different pressure levels. The variable pressure levels that are delivered alternately are preset and prevent any sort of breathing difficulties, especially when you exhale air.

Select the Proper Size CPAP Mask

Buying a CPAP mask that fits correctly is necessary to make the best possible use of therapy. A CPAP mask that is too large for your face can cause air to sneak out from the mask, thereby preventing sufficient air delivery. This can interrupt your sleep and you may wake up in the middle of the night. The mask does come with adjustments that allow you to tighten it, but that does not mean you buy a big mask and tighten it to suit your requirements. Wearing a mask that is excessively tight can damage the skin. Due to inappropriate fitting size, many times air sneaks out from the nose bridge of the mask, making your eyes dry. So, to avoid air leakage and bruises, make sure to buy a good fitting mask.

Features in a CPAP Machine

ResMed, Fisher & Paykel, and Respironics are some of the popular brands that sell CPAP machines. The availability of features will depend on the type and model of CPAP machine that you buy. When buying a CPAP machine, check whether your equipment has the following features.

Ramp

Initially, you may not be able to breathe properly using the CPAP machine. Your breathing pattern may take time to adjust with the air flow that is being delivered at a specified pressure. To make things simpler, most CPAP machines come with a ramp feature. This feature helps to increase the air pressure at a slow rate till it reaches the prescribed value. So, in the beginning air is delivered at a very low pressure and then gradually the air pressure is incremented automatically up to the specified setting. This way, you can get accustomed with the continuous air pressure of the machine.

Leak Compensation

With this feature, you continue to get adequate air supply, despite having minor air leakage from the mask. This facility ensures that the pressure level remains unchanged in the presence of small air leaks in the mask. Thus, leak compensation feature overrides small air leaks to maintain the prescribed setting of the air pressure.

Data Recording

CPAP machines that have a data recording facility allow you to know whether there was any air leakage in the mask or abnormal breathing events the last night. The data is reported on the LCD unit of the machine.

Mask Alert

Some people have the habit of removing the mask while asleep. Also, the mask may come off when you change your sleeping position. To make user aware of this situation, the machine is fitted with an audible alarm that beeps continuously as soon as the mask gets displaced from its position. The feature also detects any significant air leaks and informs right away by ringing the alarm.

Altitude Adjustment

The altitude at which a CPAP machine operates can also affect the air pressure delivery system. For instance, if you are at a holiday destination that is 7000 feet above sea level, the CPAP machine may deliver air that is lower than the set pressure settings. At high altitudes, air density reduces considerably, making it difficult for CPAP machine to maintain optimum pressure. To avoid air pressure problems, CPAP machines are equipped with altitude adjustment capability. When this feature is turned on and set to the desired range (say 4000 - 6000 feet), the machine will be able to maintain pressure at the selected altitude range. You need to have an atlas to find out the altitude of your location. However, if you don't want to adjust the altitude manually, you should buy the ResMed machines as they come with automatic altitude adjustments.

Humidification

Buying a CPAP machine that has an attached humidifier is always a good option. As we all know, a humidifier adds moisture to the air, thereby keeping your throat moist and warm. A CPAP machine without a humidifier means you breathe dry hair, which can eventually trigger dryness in the upper respiratory act.

Heated Tubing

The addition of a humidifier ensures that the CPAP machine delivers warm moist air, but it can lead to condensation, causing accumulation of water in the tube. This is due to the difference in air temperature along the tube. In order to prevent this condensation problem, the heated tubing feature is found to be useful. A heating element in the form of coil is integrated with the tube. A very low voltage transformer is used to heat the coil, which maintains consistent temperature throughout the tube and prevents condensation.

Almost all CPAP machines come with a two-year warranty, but even during this period, you need to change certain parts to maintain the efficacy of CPAP therapy. For instance, replacing the air filter after every 6 months is essential for optimal performance of CPAP machines. Also, the mask should be replaced after every 3 - 6 months.

An important point to note here is that you cannot buy a CPAP machine without a prescription. In case you are ordering it online, it is necessary to fax or email the prescription copy to the desired location. In case of non-availability of prescription, you need to send the contact details of the doctor who has prescribed CPAP therapy.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical professional.