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Home > Wellness > Health Library > Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) Therapy for Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Continuous positive airway pressure therapy
(CPAP) uses a machine to help a person who has obstructive
sleep apnea (OSA) breathe more easily during sleep. A
CPAP machine increases air pressure in your throat so that your airway doesn't
collapse when you breathe in. When you use CPAP, your bed partner may sleep
You use CPAP at home every night while you sleep. The
CPAP machine will have one of the following:
See a picture of
It may take time for you to become
comfortable with using CPAP. If you can't get used to it, talk to your doctor.
You might be able to try another type of mask or make other adjustments.
CPAP is the most effective
nonsurgical treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. It is the first treatment
choice and the most widely used.
Overall, CPAP is effective for
moderate and severe obstructive sleep apnea:
Problems that may occur with CPAP
Nosebleeds are a rare complication of
You can expect mild discomfort in the
morning when you first start using CPAP. Talk with your doctor if you don't
feel comfortable after a few days.
You may be able to limit or
stop some of the side effects:
When you are using CPAP, you need
to see your doctor or sleep specialist regularly. You may also need more
sleep studies to adjust the CPAP machine and check
whether the treatment is working.
The machines are expensive. You
may be able to rent a CPAP machine before you buy it. In some cases, you may be
able to rent-to-own a CPAP machine.
BiPAP and APAP machines are usually more expensive than CPAP machines.
The most common problem with
CPAP is that people don't use the machine every night. Or they take off the
mask during the night because it becomes uncomfortable. Even one night of not
using the machine can make you sleepy the next day.
You might not
use the machine daily, or you might even stop using it because:
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved
some brands of portable CPAP machines. You may be able to
take a smaller CPAP machine on vacations or other types of
Complete the special treatment information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this treatment.
Silverberg DS, et al. (2002). Treating obstructive
sleep apnea improves essential hypertension and quality of life.
American Family Physician, 65(2): 229–236.
Giles TL, et al. (2006). Continuous positive
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Hensley M, Ray C (2008). Sleep apnoea, search date May
2008. Online version of BMJ Clinical Evidence: http://www.clinicalevidence.com.
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after therapeutic and subtherapeutic nasal continuous positive airway pressure
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Norman D, et al. (2006). Effects of continuous
positive airway pressure versus supplemental oxygen on 24-hour ambulatory blood
pressure. Hypertension, 47(5): 840–845.
Lam B, et al. (2007). Randomised study of
three non-surgical treatments in mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnoea.
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Milleron O, et al. (2004). Benefits of obstructive
sleep apnoea treatment in coronary artery disease: A long-term follow-up study.
European Heart Journal, 25(9): 728–734.
Khayat RN, et al. (2008). Cardiac effects of
continuous and bilevel positive airway pressure for patients with heart failure
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January 20, 2012
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Mark A. Rasmus, MD - Pulmonology, Critical Care Medicine, Sleep Medicine
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