What is CPAP? The short answer: An abbreviation of “continuous positive airway pressure,” CPAP is a breathing therapy device that delivers air to a mask worn over the nose and/or mouth to help consistent breathing. It’s used primarily for sleep apnea, but also in the treatment of other breathing conditions.
In our post on pre- and post-diagnosis options, we examined the different types of sleep apnea solutions available to those diagnosed with this condition. Those solutions included the three basic options for sleep apnea therapy: surgery, oral appliances (OA) and CPAP. On this list, CPAP is the most prescribed option – the National Sleep Foundation calls it “the leading therapy for sleep apnea.”
So, if you have symptoms of sleep apnea and could potentially receive a diagnosis from your doctor (after your sleep test, of course), then chances are good that CPAP is the therapy option your doctor will recommend.
Mask, machine or device: What is CPAP?
So, what exactly does “continuous positive airway pressure” mean, and what should you expect if you receive a prescription for CPAP therapy?
CPAP therapy involves a mask that fits over your nose and/or mouth and a machine that pushes air through a tube to the mask. This combination is why it’s called continuous positive airway pressure – air is continuously delivered to your airway. This flow of air helps to prevent the stops and pauses in overnight breathing that sleep apnea usually causes.
Today, companies like ResMed have revolutionized the comfort and convenience of CPAP therapy. Once upon a time, some patients felt intimidated by the prospect of wearing a mask throughout the night. Today, thanks to ultra-lightweight CPAP masks like the QuattroTM Air or the SwiftTM FX Nano — and innovations in CPAP machines like heated humidification and ultra-quiet motors – CPAP mask therapy has never been more comfortable for you (and let’s not forget, your bed partner as well).
There are a number of different types of CPAP masks, ranging from those that cover most of the face, to those that cover the nose only, designed to accommodate different levels of sleep apnea severity, facial structures and personal comfort preferences for patients.
Best of all, most insurance companies now pay for sleep testing and for CPAP treatment. More on that in an upcoming blog post. And join us next time when we outline some of the different types of CPAP masks available to sleep apnea patients.