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Got Sleep Apnea? Know How CPAP works!




A CPAP machine assists patients with breathing by providing a constant pressured flow and exchange of oxygen into the lungs. CPAP machine are used not just in a hospital setting, but also can be used in a home setting. Some of the reasons for using this machine for assisting with breathing are sleep apnea and the prevention of respiratory failure and endotracheal intubation.

Mechanics of the Machine
The machine consists of three main components, a mask, vinyl tube, and the CPAP machine. The machine sends regulated pressured air through the vinyl tubing that is connected to the machine, through a mask that covers a patient’s nose and mouth. The mask is completely sealed around the nose and mouth in order to give the best results for keeping airways open. The machines that are available also are fairly small, some weighing as little as 1.7 pounds.

Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder where there are abnormal breaks in breathing or shallow breathing. Pauses can last for seconds to minutes and can happen several times within an hour. There are three kinds of sleep apnea, but obstructive is the most common for the usage of a CPAP. Obstructive sleep apnea is characterized by an obstruction in the airway causing pauses within the breath. The machine helps by providing pressure, opening the obstruction in the airway to get a continuous breath.

Respiratory Failure
Individuals whos suffer from illnesses such as lung disease, severe asthma, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema are candidates for these machines. Because of the nature of these illnesses sometimes the body simply can’t make enough oxygen. In efforts to avoid respiratory failure, a CPAP machine may be coupled with the use of oxygen therapy.

Prevention of Endotracheal Intubation
Endotracheal intubation is the use of inserting an oxygen tube into the airway and using an external mechanical ventilator to aid in helping a patient breathe. This option for patients who suffer from lung disease and other respiratory problems can be rather evasive for several reasons. In order to do the endotracheal intubation, the patient must be sedated, and to remove the tube can be rather taxing. The patient has to be weaned off the ventilator and this can take a long time to accomplish. A CPAP has the same capabilities to open airways like endotracheal intubation without having to be evasive and taxing upon weaning off the machine.

Possible Discomforts
There are minimal risks with using these machines and usually easy to get used to using, but there are some discomforts. The constant pressure of air can cause air to accumulate in the stomach causes pain and gas. Sleeping on a contoured pillow or keeping your head level with the rest of your body may help relieve stomach pain and gas caused by the machine.

A common discomfort is the mask part of the machine not fitting right. The mask has to fit snug in order to work properly, but not tight. There are several sizes of masks available to assure the right fit for comfort. Also, because of the constant airflow through the nasal passage, it has the potential to irritate the nose and throat. Usually causing an increase in mucus production hence runny nose, sneezing, and nasal congestion. This can be combatted by the use of a humidifier or using nasal saline sprays to keep the nasal passage moist.