Common Side Effects of Using CPAP Machines

Photo of author
Last updated on

Reviewed by

Raj Dasgupta, MD

Sleep apnea happens when people briefly stop breathing while they sleep. This can lead to problems like snoring, gasping for air, memory issues, trouble concentrating, and feeling sleepy during the day.

Doctors often suggest using a CPAP machine to treat sleep apnea. It’s a device that helps keep the airway open during sleep. A CPAP machine sends air through a mask into the throat, preventing it from closing.

Using a CPAP machine can help reduce sleep apnea symptoms and make life better for those with the condition. However, some people don’t use their CPAP machine regularly because of side effects.

If you’re new to CPAP or find it hard to use your machine consistently, we can help. We’ll talk about common CPAP side effects and ways to make CPAP therapy more comfortable.

Common Side Effects of Using CPAP Machines

Common Side Effects of Using CPAP Machines

Here are some common things that might happen when you use a CPAP machine:

  1. Skin Marks or Rashes: Your mask might leave marks on your skin or cause rashes, especially if it doesn’t fit right. This can happen more on the bridge of your nose or if you have sensitive skin. Using mask liners, creams, or adjusting the fit can help.

  2. Dry Nose or Mouth: Air leaking from the mask can dry out your nose or mouth, leading to discomfort or even nosebleeds. Using saline spray, heated humidifiers, or a different mask style can help.

  3. Difficulty Breathing Out: Sometimes it’s harder to breathe out against the pressure, which might cause insomnia. Adjusting the pressure settings or trying different therapy modes can help.

  4. Swallowing Air: Some people swallow air while using CPAP, leading to bloating or burping. This might mean the pressure settings are too high, and adjustments or different therapies could help.

  5. Central Sleep Apnea: CPAP might cause episodes of breath-holding in some people. Adjusting the pressure or trying different therapy types may help.

  6. Face Growth Problems in Children: Kids using CPAP should be monitored for face growth issues caused by mask pressure. New mask styles could lower this risk.

  7. Claustrophobia: Some people feel confined wearing the mask, but this often gets better with time. Treatment for anxiety might help if it’s a big problem.

  8. Loud Noise: The noise from the CPAP machine might bother you or your partner at first, but most people get used to it. It’s usually quieter than snoring, which CPAP helps stop.

Factors That Affect CPAP Side Effects

CPAP machine side effects often happen when people don’t use the machine properly. Here are some common issues:

  1. Poorly fitting mask: If your mask doesn’t fit well, you might experience discomfort or air leaks.
  2. Not using the humidifier: Skipping the built-in humidifier can lead to dryness in your airways and discomfort.
  3. Mask coverage: If your mask only covers your nose or mouth, it might not effectively treat your sleep apnea.
  4. High pressure settings: Too much pressure can cause discomfort or difficulty breathing.

Certain factors can increase your risk of side effects and may indicate that adjustments are needed:

  1. Weight changes: Losing weight can improve sleep apnea but might also cause issues like air swallowing or mask leaks. Conversely, gaining weight may require adjustments to your CPAP pressure.
  2. Allergies: Allergy medications or nasal sprays can improve airflow, potentially affecting your pressure needs.
  3. Surgery: Procedures like tonsillectomy or nasal surgery can change your CPAP therapy requirements.
  4. Substance use: Smoking or drinking alcohol before bed can worsen sleep apnea symptoms. Quitting these habits may reduce your pressure needs.
  5. Medications: Some drugs, like muscle relaxants, can worsen symptoms. Stopping these medications might lower your pressure requirements.

For mild cases of sleep apnea, you may use some anti-snoring devices or anti-snoring mouthpieces.

How to Prevent CPAP Side Effects

Here are some easy tips to prevent CPAP side effects:

  1. Keep it Clean: Regularly clean your CPAP mask, tubing, and water chamber to avoid bacteria buildup. Use mild soap and water daily, and soak the parts in vinegar and water once a week.

  2. Avoid Oily Products: Remove makeup or moisturizer before using your CPAP mask to prevent oil buildup, which can lead to side effects.

  3. Choose the Right Mask: Nasal masks, full-face masks, and nasal pillows are available, so discuss with your doctor which type suits you best based on factors like mouth breathing, claustrophobia, and sleep position.

  4. Check Your Humidifier: Ensure your humidifier is working properly to prevent respiratory irritation, dry mouth, dry nose, or nosebleeds. Clean it regularly.

  5. Consider Heated Tubing: Heated tubing warms the air and can improve comfort. Check if it’s compatible with your CPAP machine.

  6. Consult About Sinus Medication: If you have sinus issues, talk to your doctor about medication to help your CPAP work effectively and reduce side effects.

  7. Try Mask Barriers: Use barriers like gel or cloth between your skin and the CPAP mask to prevent skin irritations.

  8. Secure Your Strap: Make sure your mask strap is neither too tight nor too loose to avoid skin irritations and leaks. Adjust it properly for a comfortable fit.

Adjusting CPAP Pressure to Avoid CPAP Side Effects

When you start using CPAP, the right pressure is usually figured out during a sleep study. But in the beginning, you might need to adjust it to avoid problems.

Your CPAP pressure might also need tweaking if your lifestyle changes, like if you gain or lose weight, or if you start taking sedatives or alcohol.

Some folks find relief with a pressure ramp. Instead of hitting you with the full pressure right away, it slowly increases over time, so you can nod off comfortably.

When to Talk to a Doctor

If you’re using a CPAP machine to treat sleep apnea, it’s important to talk to your doctor if you have any concerns or issues. Using the CPAP consistently is key for it to work well and provide health benefits.

While you can try some fixes yourself, like adjusting your sleeping position or mask fit, your doctor can give you tailored advice to tackle any problems you’re facing with CPAP side effects.

It’s also a good idea to see your doctor if:

  • Your sleep apnea symptoms aren’t improving with CPAP therapy.
  • You’re unsure about the right pressure settings for your CPAP machine.

Your doctor can help make sure you’re getting the most out of your CPAP treatment and address any issues you’re having.

FAQs About CPAP Side Effects

1. How can I prevent red marks from my CPAP mask?

Red marks from your CPAP mask can happen if it’s too tight or doesn’t fit well. To avoid them, try not to tighten it too much. You can also use headgear covers or gel pads to lessen the pressure on your skin.

2. Why does the bridge of my nose get sore from CPAP?

Soreness on the bridge of your nose usually means your headgear straps are too tight. This might be because you’re trying to stop air leaks, but it can cause discomfort. It could also mean your mask is the wrong size or style for you.

3. Why is my face breaking out around my nose after using CPAP?

If you’re prone to acne, wearing a CPAP mask can cause breakouts because oils build up under it. To reduce this, wash your face before putting on the mask and clean the mask regularly.

Need professional help to diagnose and address your sleep problems? Schedule an online consultation with sleep specialist Dr. Owen Napleton.

Leave a Comment

Online Sleep Consultation With Dr. Owen Napleton