If you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, the next step will be to start treatment, and if this includes continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) you may wonder how to choose a CPAP mask. The options available to you are numerous, but before becoming overwhelmed you can follow a few simple guidelines.
In general, CPAP is meant to provide a constant stream of air that supports your upper airway and keeps it open, thus preventing apnea and snoring. This air may be delivered through your nose, mouth, or both, and the preference may depend on your individual needs.
Most people use a mask that delivers air through their nose. Most nasal masks consist of a triangular-shaped gel or plastic cushion that covers the nose and rests from the bridge of the nose to just below the nostrils. Attached to this will be a headgear, often consisting of fabric, Velcro, or plastic clips that secures the mask to your face. Finally there will be a plastic hose attaching the mask to the CPAP machine itself.
There are many variations of masks, usually consisting of some combination of ingenuity and marketing. Many masks also have a brace that relieves pressure by adding a few contact points on the forehead. There may be added cushions or seals to prevent marks on your face or leaks. Some masks are even designed to float on a cushion of air.
Still other distinct options are available. One consists of nasal pillows, which typically are plastic inserts that look like headphone earbuds that are inserted in the nostrils. These are an excellent option if you struggle with claustrophobia or don’t like the mask leaving marks on your face. They may not be everyone’s comfort choice, however. Some other masks are large enough to cover both the nose and mouth, which can compensate for those who mouth-breathe. Other mask interfaces act like a mouthpiece, and can correct jaw positioning while delivering CPAP treatment.