The most common treatment for sleep apnea is the use of CPAP breathing machines. CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. A CPAP machine has a flexible tube that connects the machine with a mask or other air device that is worn by the patient over his mouth and/or nose. CPAP breathing machines work by maintaining a positive air pressure outside the mouth and nose that will push air gently down one’s throat in order to minimize apnea’s i.e., moments where airflow is not occurring for 10 seconds or more. The air pressure from the breathing machines is set according to one’s severity of apnea (i.e., frequency of apnea’s per hour).
There are several manufacturers of these breathing machines and most of them offer a variety of machine types. CPAP breathing machines are typically covered by insurance companies but are not that expensive anyway. They can also be rented. The technology for these machines is constantly being updated, so is it relatively easy to find a machine among the several types that will work for you. Although often covered by insurance, some insurance companies will only cover only certain types of CPAP breathing machines.
CPAP breathing machines are by definition “medical devices” and for this reason they must have FDA approval, and the patient must have a physician’s prescription in order to get one. If you suspect you may have sleep apnea, you should immediately see your doctor. He will refer you to a sleep specialist to help you decide which machine is best for you and your lifestyle, often following a sleep study.
In deciding which machine to use, notice that some of them have several features you might like such as a built in humidifier, adjustable air pressure dial, DC (direct current) operations via a car or boat battery, the ability to sense varying pressure levels as you sleep and change the pressure automatically as needed. Some CPAP breathing machines can also record if you had any apneas while using the machine via a memory chip that monitors pressure changes while you sleep. Your sleep specialist will want to download this data periodically to verify the adequacy of your treatment objectively.
The type of mask or other device you use is very important as a CPAP breathing machine is only part of the system for ensuring continuous air flow into your body. Some masks work better on some people than on others. Participation in an A.W.A.K.E. support group for people with sleep apnea may also be helpful for keeping up to speed on different choices of equipment and the sharing of personal experiences. To fine one of these groups in your local area search the A.W.A.K.E. Group database. We would also like to hear of your personal experiences, so be sure to come back to this blog and comment.
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