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What is a CPAP Machine and How Does it Work? (And Possible Dangers)

A CPAP machine is a way of treating obstructive sleep apnea. They are designed to help people breathe and protect them from possible danger when they sleep. It is a way of promoting sleep health. This post will discuss how CPAP machines work to help people with sleep problems.

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure Machine

This is what the acronym CPAP stands for. It is meant to treat sleep apnea and help with heavy snoring by using pressurized air.

The mask and the tube deliver this into the airways. This pressurized air is greater than atmospheric pressure. The CPAP machine will continuously apply this pressure to the upper respiratory tract of the user through the forced air.

CPAP Machine Operation and Recall

CPAP Machines Offer Great Utility, But They Alsso Pose Dangers to Users Due to a Recall by Phillips.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea Is Dangerous

This is the most common form of sleep apnea is called obstructive sleep apnea. This is caused by your throat muscles relaxing during sleep. The relaxing muscles end up blocking the airways. This can cause the patient to stop breathing. Not only does this type of sleep disorder cause a number of side effects, but it can also be fatal.

In addition, this condition will also lead to worse sleep at night and daytime sleepiness. Patients may have a harder time to fall asleep at night due to difficulty breathing. They will also struggle to remain awake during the day, since their sleep at night is less than optimal.

Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea

Certain people are far more likely to suffer from sleep apnea than others. Here are some of the people who may be more prone to this condition:

  • Being overweight
  • Patients with coronary artery disease
  • Older people
  • People with narrowed airways
  • Smokers
  • People with a family history of the condition

Other Forms of Sleep Apnea

There are three main types of sleep apnea. They are:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea – as mentioned above, this is caused by relaxation of the throat muscles
  • Central sleep apnea – the cause is the brain not sending the proper messages to the parts of the body that control breathing
  • Complex sleep apnea syndrome – this is a combination of the above two types of the condition

Seeing a Sleep Doctor for Sleep Apnea

You will need to see a sleep technician for treating sleep apnea. When you visit a sleep specialist, they will be able to learn about the root of the problem and recommend treatment options for your health and safety. This is an absolute must when you have severe sleep apnea.

There are a number of doctors who would qualify as sleep experts who can help with sleep apnea symptoms. They include:

  • Ear nose throat doctors
  • Neurologists
  • Pulmonologists
  • Mental health doctors

First, the doctor may send you to a sleep lab for an extensive sleep study before any diagnosis can be made. You will either be tested in a sleep laboratory or with a specialized machine that you bring home.

Doctors could analyze everything from how you breathe to your sleep position. First, they would need to distinguish this condition from something like a stuffy nose that could keep you from breathing properly.

Treatment Options for Sleep Apnea

There are several ways of treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. In addition to a CPAP device that we will describe below, a board certified sleep specialist may recommend the following:

  • Other airway pressure devices, such as BIPAP machines (these provide a different air pressure than a CPAP machine
  • Oral applicances
  • Treating the underlying medical conditions
  • Supplemental oxygen

The Parts of the CPAP Machine

The CPAP machine consists of several main parts that work together for CPAP treatment. Some basic components of this machine include:

  • A motor, which brings air into the room
  • The face mask which the person wears
  • The hose that transports air from the motor to the face mask

Buying a CPAP Machine

CPAP devices are all about deliver quality sleep while protecting you from the dangers of stopping breathing when you are sleeping. The goal is better sleep in a safer way.

First, patients will need to look for the best CPAP machine to help them achieve this goal. A sleep center may recommend the right machine for you. Hopefully, they are considering things such as safety and effectiveness.

A CPAP Machine for Treating Obstructive Sleep Apnea

CPAP use is intended to help people get better and safer sleep. CPAP therapy will have a number of positive health effects for a person suffering from obstructive sleep apnea. These include:

  • Better sleep that can help you function during the day (making your life safer by lowering the risk of things such as car accidents)
  • Better management of diabetes
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduced snoring
  • Improved cognitive function that comes from better sleep (sleep apnea will cause someone to repeatedly wake up in the middle of the night, impacting their sleep)

In addition, CPAP machines will lower the risk of dying in one’s sleep when they stop breathing.

Using the CPAP Machine

The first thing to do with CPAP equipment is to set up the filters. These are in place to purify the air that you breathe. Cleaner air will help with your sleep apnea condition.

After all, the machine is filtering air from the room that you will breathe. There are three potential types of filters to use with the CPAP machine: foam filters, disposable paper filters, or a bacteria filter.

Then, CPAP masks need to be attached to the hose. Then, the user will need to figure out how to properly fit the nasal mask. First, they will fit the mask over their face more loosely.

Then, they will gently pull the straps, tightening the mask over the face. The key is to have it snugly over the face but not too tight. It is essential that the mask fit properly over the face every time that it is put on before sleep.

Some people report having trouble getting into a comfortable sleeping position with a mask over their face. You can buy special nasal pillows that have a cutout for the mask, allowing you to sleep more comfortably while ensuring a steady flow of air.

How Does the CPAP Machine Work?

A CPAP machine will have various pressure settings. This is not something that you need to worry about selecting. This is set for you when you purchase the CPAP machine.

Part of your positive airway pressure treatment is the appropriate level of pressure that is selected by your sleep doctor. The machine is already pre-programmed, and you do not have to do anything.

The CPAP machine is placed on a flat and steady surface next to the bed. It should be at least six inches from a wall and away from things like photos or other obstructions that could interfere with air flow. Stability and consistent air flow are key factors in where the machine is placed

Using the CPAP Machine

Using a CPAP machine entails first placing the CPAP mask over the face. The CPAP machine delivers a constant flow of air. The patient needs to affix the mask securely to the face and just breathe normally.

There are bands that go around both the head and face to ensure that the mask is properly attached. The machine does the rest. It will already work at the prescribed pressure, and the air will begin to flow.

Using a Heated Humidifier with Your CPAP Machine

For many patients, using a humidifier with their machine is not optional. Pumping dry air through CPAP masks will have a harmful effect on the person breathing it continuously when they are sleeping. Dry air can cause them to suffer from a runny nose.

It is best to use distilled water with your humidifier. Moist air from a heated humidifier will improve your therapy and reduce nasal congestion. Without a humidifier, you may suffer from a dry nose.

How the CPAP Machine Will Help Sleep Apnea

The constant flow of air will travel through an air filter through the tube. The machine itself will take the air from the surrounding area. It will then pressurize the air on its own to a measure between 4-25 centimeters of water pressure. It will then pass through a humidifier before delivering the air to the mask.

The mask will fill with the pressurized air. In positive airway pressure therapy, this air will help push against and clear any blockages. It is these blockages that cause people to stop and start breathing in their sleep.

The air will do the work that the relaxing throat muscles cannot do on their own to ensure that the patient keeps breathing normally during their sleep.

Over time, continued use of a CPAP machine may help your throat muscles get stronger. The benefits will grow the longer you use the machine. Instances in which you stop breathing could decrease.

How BiPAP Machines Work

Some people who suffer from sleep apnea will use a BiPAP machine instead of a CPAP machine. This stands for BiLevel Positive Airway Pressure. A BiPAP machine will have two pressure settings. Some CPAP users will have trouble breathing normally with the machine. The singular air pressure level will make it difficult for patients to exhale.

A BiPAP machine will perform a similar function to CPAP devices. It is also designed to support the airways when the throat muscles do not consistently work. It is similarly meant to help a patient resume breathing if they have stopped (and not to stop breathing in the first place).

It has two different levels of air pressure; one for inhalation and one for exhalation. The different air pressure helps the patient breathe. There is low air pressure for exhalation.

How APAP Machines Work

APAP machines also work using the same concept as CPAP and BiPAP machines. This machine will check on your breathing throughout the night, and it will adjust the pressure based on your sleeping position and your needs at the time.

Possible Problems with Your CPAP Machine

A CPAP machine can cause some side effects for some users, making it not the ideal way of treatment for obstructive sleep. The first issue is that the CPAP machine may be just plain uncomfortable for many people, depending on how they sleep. Users may have to adjust their sleeping position in order to accommodate the device.

Others may not be able to get used to wearing a mask. It makes them feel claustrophobic. The mask itself may cause discomfort, as users may not be able to find one that fits them properly.

One major problem with CPAP machines is that air leaks can keep them from operating properly. Air leaks can result in lower pressure, and they can defeat the purpose of using a CPAP machine in the first place. Usually, an air leak would be caused by the CPAP mask itself, including a poor fit or an old and degraded mask.

Other Problems with CPAP Equipment

One recent major problem with a certain brand of CPAP equipment has emerged. Some CPAP machines made by Phillips have been recalled due to a dangerous problem with the machine itself.

The CPAP machine uses a type of foam in the unit to reduce noise and vibration. The problem is that the foam can break down over time into very small particles, especially due to humidity. Users end up breathing in and swallowing these particles through their face masks.

This can cause a number of risks. Primarily, the main danger is that the particles of synthetic foam can cause lung cancer. There are a number of other lung irritations and conditions that the foam can cause. In addition, users may be sickened with liver or kidney cancer. This has caused a recall of certain Phillips products and resulted in CPAP lawsuits.

Attorneys for Defective CPAP Machine Lawsuits

If you or a loved one have been injured by a defective CPAP machine that has been recalled, you may be entitled to financial compensation.

Contact the attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers to learn more about your legal rights and whether you can file a lawsuit. We can give you a free no-obligation consultation to discuss your case.