“They want me to wear this?!” thought many sleep apnea patients the first time they unboxed their new CPAP mask.
If you have felt this way, rest assured – you aren’t alone. After working with thousands of sleep apnea patients for more than 9 years, Meg McCurdy of Nationwide Medical’s Clinical Care Team said the mask is the #1 stumbling block for new patients. “The mask is intimidating. Patients blame themselves for being scared or weak or claustrophobic,” she said. “The important thing to know is that you are not alone – millions of others are going through therapy. Wearing a mask is a big adjustment for everyone, and many who do not seek help or persevere to find the right mask end up giving up.”
If you need help adjusting to your CPAP mask, the best place to start is with education about why you need one. If you have been prescribed a CPAP machine and mask, it’s because your life depends on it. Sleep apnea is a disorder whereby a patient’s breathing stops and starts during sleep. This means reduced oxygen supply to the brain and heart – which could lead to stroke, heart attack, seizures, and other health problems. You need to use the CPAP machine to keep your airway open. The therapy is drug-free and effective when done as prescribed. “The CPAP mask is not a fashion statement,” said Meg, “It’s going to save your life.”
Now that you know why a mask is needed, it’s helpful to understand the different types of CPAP masks available. Most fall into one of three categories:
Full Face Mask: This type of mask covers the mouth and nose. If you are a mouth breather, this is the type of mask that you will use.
Nasal Pillow Mask: This CPAP mask fits around the openings of the nostrils – similar to an oxygen nasal cannula.
Nasal Mask: This mask fits over the entire nose to supply the needed pressure.
Which mask you end up with depends on different breathing and lifestyle factors – all of which are covered during a consultation with a respiratory therapist before you are provided with your CPAP machine, mask, and supplies from Nationwide Medical.
Once you get your mask, Meg suggests an adjustment period before you start sleeping with it. “I tell patients to wear it around their house, while they are watching TV, or reading,” she said. “You can even try it out by taking a nap. Give yourself a week and get comfortable with it before you hook it up to sleep in.”
Say that you eased yourself into therapy, have been using a CPAP for at least a week or two, and still are having issues. That’s when it’s time to ask for help. Meg and the rest of the clinical care team are available 24/7 to assist Nationwide Medical patients. “I’ve been doing this for so long that within 10 minutes, I can usually tell if you are using the wrong mask,” she said. “It may take a few masks until we find one that is the right fit for you. But you will be working with someone who will be here with you and be your advocate.”
In addition, most patients are unaware that the manufacturers of the CPAP masks participate in what is called a “Mask Exchange Program”. This program allows patients the chance to try out a mask and, if the mask isn’t the right fit or feel, they can exchange it for a new one at no cost. This gives you flexibility to find the perfect fit and start sleeping comfortably.
Nationwide Medical Inc. is the leader in sleep apnea support and CPAP/BiLevel machines and supplies. We have more than a decade of experience serving 100,000 patients with 24/7 clinical support. You can reach us at www.nationwidemedical.com or call 1-877-307-2727 (CPAP).