Medical Equipment - Choosing a CPAP Mask
Finding the right CPAP Mask is important to your CPAP therapy. There are a lot of mask styles, shapes and sizes out in the market and choosing the mask that works best for you can be a little daunting at first since there’s no miracle best that will suit all patients. What it all boils down to is finding a mask that will suit your own individual breathing needs, sleep habits and comfort level.
Three Main Categories of CPAP Mask Types
Nasal Pillow masks are among the most popular mask choices for CPAP users due to its minimal design. Nasal pillows are the smallest of the CPAP masks and rests on the user’s upper lip as it blows a pressurized air through two soft nasal tubes that is inserted into the nostrils and is secured by a strap that goes around the head.
Benefits of Nasal Pillows:
- The lightweight and minimal design is ideal for a patient that is suffering from claustrophobia or those who are uncomfortable with too much material touching their face.
- Optimal for wearers who like to read or watch TV before bedtime as it offers a better field of vision that other mask types.
- Allows the user to wear their glasses as there’s no material that is covering the bridge of their nose.
- The direct airflow into the nasal passages reduces air leakage.
- Good for an active sleep who tosses and turns a lot.
Drawbacks of Nasal Pillows:
- It is not ideal for a patient with a high-pressure need since the airflow is very direct and might cause discomfort at a higher pressure setting.
- Some users might find the direct air pressure would lead to an incident of nasal dryness and can even cause nose bleeds in some cases.
- It is not ideal for a mouth-breather since using a nasal pillow might feel unnatural or uncomfortable.
Nasal masks are triangular in shape and fits over the nose, covering the areas from the bridge of the nose down to the upper lip. They are popular among CPAP wearers due to its wide range of sizes and fits that makes finding a perfect mask very likely.
Benefits of Nasal Masks:
- More natural airflow than a nasal pillow since the delivered pressure isn’t as direct.
- Better for a higher-pressure setting than a nasal pillow.
- If you move around a lot during your sleep or sleep on your side, the suction of the nasal mask would help keep it securely in place.
Drawbacks of Nasal Masks:
- Much like nasal pillows, nasal masks aren’t ideal for a mouth-breather unless accompanied with a chin-strap to keep the jaw closed.
- Some CPAP wearers complain about an irritation caused by the pressure of the mask resting on the bridge of the nose or the forehead supports of some models.
- Not ideal for a patient who frequently experiences an allergy or cold that would cause blockage of the sinuses.
- Not recommended for a patient who has a difficulty breathing through the nose from a medical condition like a deviated septum, enlarged turbinates or a collapsed or a narrowed nasal valve.
Full Face Mask
A full face CPAP mask would cover the nose and mouth and all the parts of the face with a wide strap that would keep the mask in place. Some hybrid face masks would cover the mouth but also have a nasal prong that would fit into the nostrils like a nasal pillow.
Benefits of a Full Face Mask:
- Full Face masks are ideal for a mouth-breather and those that haven’t worked well with a nasal mask/chinstrap combination.
- Ideal for a patient who has a nasal obstruction or a frequent congestion due to an allergy or a cold symptom.
- Oddly enough, some claustrophobic patients have preffered the full face mask that would cover the entire facial area since the mask only touches the outsides of the face. Whereas a nasal pillow and nasal mask would touch the upper lip and the bridge of the nose.
- Works well with a high-pressure setting due to the wide surface area of the mask that would make it feel like the pressure is more tolerable and is less direct than with other mask types.
- Works well with those that sleeps on their backs as the supine position is best for an optimal air seal.
Drawbacks of a Full Face Mask:
- Due to the larger surface area, there is a much higher chance of air leakage.
- Some users have complained of air leakage near the top of the mask, causing a dry and irritated eye.
- A full face mask would make it difficult for the user to read or watch TV in bed.
- If you’re a stomach sleeper, the bulk of the mask would make it difficult for you to sleep comfortably on your abdomen.
Things to Consider When Choosing a CPAP Mask
1. Size, Fit and Comfort are most important considerations in choosing a CPAP mask. If the mask doesn’t fit, isn’t comfortable or doesn’t meet with your breathing needs then it isn’t likely to be compliant with your CPAP therapy.
So take the time to go over the best mask for you with a DME tech and don’t be afraid if you change your mind later on and want to try another mask.
2. Be sure to tell the DME Technician if you’re an active sleeper so you get the most secure mask possible.
3. Tell your DME technician that you are claustrophobic or if the areas of your face easily gets irritated.
4. If you have facial hair, it is important to find a mask that won’t leak due to an uneven surface area.
5. Check to see if the mask that you have chosen has a replaceable cushion part.
It’s important to remember that options would vary from one patient to the next and the best way to find an ideal mask is through trial and error. We allow patients a chance to acclimate to their masks at home since it is not often likely that one will know whether the mask they tried for a few minutes at the clinic would work for them every night once they take it home.
As daunting or frustrating as finding the perfect mask for your individual needs may be, take time to remind yourself of the benefits and life-changing results that you will experience through the use of a CPAP therapy.