The term ‘CPAP machine‘ is a shorthand term that stands for a device known as a ‘continuous positive air pressure’ machine and is traditionally used for aiding in people with OSA, or obstructive sleep apnea disorders and the overall involved breathing issues associated with the dysfunction. They are used to keep the airway open by flowing a moderated air pressure stream down the patient’s airways so that breathing can be maintained during sleep. The PAP machines consist of 3 parts: a mask, a motor, and tubing, while there are various models that also have humidifiers. The sizes vary, but are typically about the size of a small radio and are relatively light-weight. While they are used for treating sleep disordered breathing dysfunctions, they can also be used for respiratory failure in both adults and children.
Regarding sleep apnea, a CPAP machine works by forcing the airways open for those patients that exhibit shallow breathing during sleeping. Without the use of a CPAP machine, patients with OSA tend to have laxity in their airways, thus causing obstruction during sleep. When this occurs, the collapsed airway can minimize the oxygen levels that are in the bloodstream, and more serious conditions can occur, including loud snoring to even death. The continuous positive airway pressure of the CPAP machines will thus gently open the airway to allow continuous breathing and thus maintain regular oxygen levels during sleep.
Prior to using CPAPs, the patient will need to get a conducted sleep study by a sleep doctor. This will test the levels of breathing, airway flow, oxygen levels, and snoring for the patient. In order to get a CPAP machine prescribed, the patient needs to have this sleep test done. After a diagnosis is reached (either moderate or severe OSA), the patient can then obtain a CPAP from a home medical supplier.
Infants also use CPAPs if their lungs are not fully developed. Often times in premature births, the infants need a device to assist with breathing, so a CPAP is a viable option, and it is typically less invasive than ventilators or other options.
After shopping around for different types of PAP machines, you will notice that there are a variety of mask types available; those that cover the entire face or those that cover either just the nose or the mouth and the nose simultaneously. CPAP machines can also come in a variety of sizes and are highly adjustable. The variety is offered for those patients who are ‘CPAP intolerant,’ or have issues wearing certain masks due to their sleep patterns and positions.
There are also machines known as Auto CPAP machines (or AutoPAP) that are created to titrate the levels of oxygen that are pumped into the system based on breathing patterns. These tend to be a little more money, but offer a wider variety of treatment and often times the patients find that they can see the benefits over the traditional CPAP machines.