The most common treatment for obstructive sleep apnea is the use of a continuous positive airway pressure machine, or CPAP. This machine can only be obtained by prescription from a doctor and are intended for home use. A CPAP breathing machine may also be prescribed to treat central or complex sleep apnea.
The CPAP isn’t for everyone
Typically, only patients who suffer from moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea are prescribed a CPAP device.
To qualify under Medicare guidelines, the patient must stop breathing at least 15 times per hour, for at least 30 times in total. Alternatively, if the patient stops breathing between 5 and 14 times an hour, they may still be prescribed a CPAP breathing machine if they also suffer from debilitating daytime sleepiness, insomnia, impaired cognition and emotional stability, hypertension, ischemic heart disease, or have a history of stroke.
Additionally, the wearing of a mask attached to a hose may not be an acceptable or workable solution for everyone. Even though a CPAP breathing machine is by far the safest treatment for moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea, should this treatment fail, surgery may be required to provide relief in some severe cases.
How does a CPAP machine work?
Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by airway structures collapsing during sleep. This restricts the amount of airflow in and out of the lungs, often leading to low blood oxygen levels. As a result, the sufferer experiences night time sleep disturbances and daytime problems that can have a significant negative impact on their health and quality of life.
A CPAP helps sleep apnea patients breathe by providing positive airway pressure that overcomes the effect of collapsed airway structures. This is the basic purpose and concept, but the machines of today provide a wide array of added features. For example, some models can sense when the user exhales and in response reduces the positive pressure so that the amount of effort required to exhale is reduced.
A common complaint in the use of CPAP has been dry airways, and some models of CPAP are now available that incorporate a heated humidifier. On-board computers can now track and record pulmonary performance during the night, providing valuable information to you and your doctor during follow-up visits. Other considerations include power requirements when traveling, size, how noisy the unit is, etc.
The most common method for applying positive pressure to the patient’s airways is through the use of a nasal mask. Masks that cover both the mouth and nose are generally recommended for anyone who sleeps on their side or moves around a lot in the night, although some patients have reported feeling claustrophobic.
Cost of CPAP breathing machines
A CPAP breathing machine can cost anywhere from about 200 to 1800 US dollars, depending on how sophisticated the machine is, its accessories, and whether a support plan is included. Accessories can include machine filters (approx. 40 to 100 US dollars per year), optional inline filters, and cleaning supplies.
It is important to check with a doctor and insurance plan policy when shopping for a CPAP machine because some of the more expensive machines may not be covered or even recommended by a doctor. There are a large number of online retailers where CPAP breathing machines can be purchased and a doctor should be able to recommend a local retailer. In most cases, a prescription is required for purchase.
The cleaning regimen typically requires the mask and hose be rinsed daily and left to dry, and sterilized weekly using a water and vinegar solution or a sterilizing solution sold by the manufacturer. There are typically two filters per machine, one located on the back of the machine and a white one inside. The one at the back of the machine should be washed and blotted dry once per week, and then replaced yearly. The white machine filter should not be washed, but replaced monthly.
A Brighter Future
The use of the CPAP has probably saved the lives and marriages of many obstructive sleep apnea sufferers. Please don’t wait any longer if the idea of wearing a mask is a bit daunting, the benefits could far outweigh the drawbacks in all facets of your life. However, make sure to consult your doctor to see if it is a solution adapted to your needs.