CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) is commonly used to treat sleep apnea. This stents the airway open to eliminate the collapse of the tongue and soft palate. Prior to the invention of the CPAP machine, a tracheotomy was commonly used to treat severe cases of sleep apnea.
There are two types of sleep apnea, Central and Obstructive, but both are generally treated with PAP therapy. There is also Bi Level therapy and a more complicated device called Servo ventilation but we generally use the term CPAP referring to Positive Airway Pressure machines.
Learning to use a CPAP machine primarily involves adjusting to the mask. While a few persons adapt quickly, most patients with sleep apnea take a period of time to adjust. It is something like learning to wear shoes while you sleep or wearing anything you have not done before.
There are three reasons people want to use CPAP therapy. First, to feel better with less daytime fatigue, more energy and elimination of night time urination. Second, to treat your bed partner to a quiet night. And third, to prevent strokes and heart attacks which are common in patients with sleep apnea who go untreated.
There are many other benefits such as weight loss diets begin to work, blood sugars and blood pressures begin to normalize and now we hear that cancer of all types are more common in untreated sleep apnea patients.
Is CPAP always needed? There are some patients who only have sleep apnea when they sleep on their back. In these patients, avoiding sleeping on their back eliminates the need for CPAP. Other treatments include dental devices to move the lower jaw forward and open up the airway but this treatment usually just helps reduce sleep apnea, not eliminate it altogether.