Fast facts about Obstructive Sleep Apnea
What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)?
- OSA is a condition in which a person stops breathing repeatedly through the night.
- Breathing stops because the throat or “airway” collapses and prevents air from getting into the lungs.
- Sleep patterns are disrupted, resulting in excessive sleepiness or fatigue during the day.
What causes the airway to collapse during sleep?
- Extra tissue in the back of the airway, such as large tonsils
- Decrease in the tone of the muscles that hold the airway open
- The tongue falling back and closing off the airway
How many people have Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
- Four percent of middle-aged men and two percent of middle-aged women in America have OSA.
- Most OSA sufferers remain undiagnosed and untreated.
- OSA is as common as adult asthma.
What should you do if you suspect you may have Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
- See your doctor: evaluation by a doctor specializing in sleep disorders is recommended.
- Have a sleep study done. A sleep study can provide the doctor with information about how you sleep and breathe. This information will help the doctor to determine your diagnosis and treatment options.
What happens if Obstructive Sleep Apnea is not treated?
There is possible increased risk for:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease and heart attack
- Fatigue-related motor vehicle and work accidents
- Decreased quality of life
What is the treatment for Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
- Most commonly, positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy is the treatment of choice for OSA. It is noninvasive and can alleviate the symptoms of OSA when used as prescribed.
- Less commonly, surgery or oral appliances are used, which may be effective in certain cases.
- Any treatment plan should include weight loss if needed, exercise, and avoidance of alcohol, sedatives, and hypnotics.
How does PAP or “CPAP” therapy work?
CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) treats OSA by providing a gentle flow of positive-pressure air through a facial mask to keep the airway open during sleep. As a result:
- Breathing becomes regular during sleep
- Snoring stops
- Restful sleep is restored
- Quality of life is improved
- Risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, heart attack, stroke, and motor vehicle and work accidents is reduced
How effective is treatment?
Regular use of positive airway pressure (PAP) treatment can minimize the impact of OSA. The benefits of effectively treating the condition through the regular nightly use of PAP treatment may include:
- Increased energy and attentiveness during the day
- Fewer morning headaches
- Reduced irritability
- Increased ability to exercise
- Increased effectiveness at home and at work
- Lower blood pressure
- Decreased risk of strokes and heart attacks
- Improved overall quality of life
When should I start feeling better after beginning to use my CPAP?
Most patients begin to feel better within the first week of use, though for some people it may take a little longer.
What if I still snore while using my CPAP?
Snoring while on CPAP should not occur. If it does, contact your doctor. Your pressure level might need to be adjusted.
What if I lose or gain weight over the course of my treatment or my old symptoms reappear?
You may need to have your CPAP pressure level adjusted. Contact your doctor.
If I need to be hospitalized for any reason, should I take my device with me and use it at night?
Yes. Also, if you are having surgery, it is important to tell the surgeon and the anesthesiologist that you are using CPAP at home. You should also inform the doctor treating you for sleep apnea that you are going into the hospital.
I travel frequently. Should I use my CPAP when I travel?
It is important that you use your CPAP every night. Purchasing travel accessories will make it more convenient for you to travel with your CPAP. Because of increased security measures at airports, it may be easier to travel if you have a copy of your prescription for your CPAP machine with you. It is also suggested that you call your airline ahead of time and ask if there is a special screening procedure required to carry on or check your CPAP therapy device.
How can I tell when my mask is worn out?
Because masks are disposable, periodic replacement is needed when the mask shows signs of wear and tear. Inspect your mask for stiffness, cracks, or tears. Also check with your homecare provider regarding replacement options through your insurance policy. Many providers will allow you to receive a new mask every six months.
My eyes are sore, dry, irritated or swollen. What should I do?
The mask may be leaking into your eyes. Try pulling the mask away from your face and repositioning it. The mask may be too tight so try readjusting your headgear straps.
My skin seems to be irritated, even bruised, or I have marks on my face. What should I do?
Your mask may be too tight. If your mask has a forehead arm or adjustment feature, try readjusting that first. Then, if necessary, readjust the headgear straps. You may have the wrong mask size. Consult your homecare provider for a mask fitting. Nasal pillows or a full-face mask may provide a better fit.
My nose and throat are dry; my nose is congested; or, I have nosebleeds. What should I do?
This condition may improve over time. Consult your doctor for a prescription for humidification. Consult with a doctor to see if a nasal spray would be advisable. Consult your doctor if the condition persists.
My mouth is dry. What should I do?
You may be sleeping with your mouth open. Try a chin strap. If a chin strap is not helpful, a full-face mask may be considered or you should consult with your doctor about adding heated humidification.
I feel gassy and bloated when I wake up in the morning. What should I do?
Try sleeping with your head elevated or try using a chin strap to prevent mouth breathing. This condition may improve over time.
My hose fills up with water at night. What should I do?
Condensation builds up because the air in the room may be cooler than the air coming from the machine. To prevent this condensation from forming, try placing the tubing under the covers to warm it. You may also ask your homecare provider for a hose .
My mask seems to be leaking. What should I do?
Check all the connections. If your mask has a forehead arm or adjustment feature, try readjusting that first to correct the leak. If there is no improvement with the above steps, readjust the headgear straps. The mask should be as loose as possible while still creating a seal. A mask that is too tight against the face can cause leaks to occur by creating folds in the material. Talk to the homecare provider about trying another mask size or type if necessary.
My mask seems dirty. How can I clean it?
Cleaning your mask every day is a very important part of mask maintenance. Here are three easy steps to keep your mask clean:
- The mask should be disassembled per the Instructions for Use. Wash the mask components in warm water with mild soap and air dry. Avoid soap with moisturizers. Do not use bleach, alcohol, or cleaning solutions containing alcohol.
- Wash your face thoroughly before using your mask. Avoid using skin lotions before putting on your mask.
- Inspect your mask. Replace the mask if the cushion becomes hardened or if any parts become damaged.
It doesn’t seem as though enough air is flowing to me. What should I do?
Check that the air from the therapy device is blowing. Then, check the air inlet and filter for obstruction or dust build-up. Inspect the hose for punctures. If you are still having problems, check with your homecare provider or doctor for assistance.
My machine doesn’t seem to be working. What should I do?
Check the power cord to be sure that it is firmly inserted into the back of the machine and the electrical outlet. If this is not the problem, contact your homecare provider. Do not attempt to repair the blower on your own.
I just can’t seem to adjust to my CPAP therapy. What should I do?
Most people will adjust to CPAP in one to two weeks. Occasionally, it may take a little longer if, for example, you are very sensitive to the feel of the mask on your face or the sound of the device. Call your homecare provider or your prescribing physician if you continue to have problems beyond two weeks. Ask if you are eligible to try a bi-level or auto-adjusting device. You also can attend a patient support group, such as A.W.A.K.E. This stands for alert, well, and keeping energetic. These groups can be found by calling the American Sleep Apnea Association at 1-202-293-3650 or visiting www.sleepapnea.org.
How can I learn more about sleep apnea and its treatment?
Your homecare provider can give you a copy of Inside OSA, an educational video from Philips Respironics, that will help you to understand your treatment better. Additional information about sleep apnea, its causes and treatments can be found on several web sites including: