Ever wondered why a prescription is required to get started with CPAP therapy? Below we discuss what goes into a CPAP prescription, who can write a CPAP prescription, and what to think about when buying your first CPAP machine.
What’s the Deal with CPAP Prescriptions?
With all of the medical information at your fingertips today, it may seem easy to self-diagnose any condition, from the flu to Sleep Apnea. And, maybe to some extent, you can! All of the information you read about Sleep Apnea is meant to help you recognize the signs and know what to do from there. (Hint: The answer will most likely be to see a medical professional!) Understandably, some people want to start treatment as soon as they pinpoint their condition and would prefer to be able to buy a CPAP machine without a prescription. We admire your enthusiasm but are here to tell you a prescription is required to purchase a CPAP machine – and, for good reason.
A CPAP machine is qualified as a Class II medical device and, as such, requires a medical professional licensed to write prescriptions under federal law, written by the FDA. That being said, you shouldn’t get a prescription only because it is required. You should want the input and advice of a medical professional to make sure you’re getting the relief you need.
Not to mention, a CPAP prescription is required by your insurance company for any reimbursement. Without one, you’ll be paying entirely out of pocket.
As an additonal resource to this and other Sleep Apnea related topics, we’ve written a comprehensive guide to CPAP machines. It has important resources and information to help you make informed choices about CPAP machines and your treatment.
Why It’s Risky to Play Doctor and Get a CPAP Machine Without a Prescription
A CPAP machine, while user friendly, is still a complex piece of medical equipment. Choosing settings incorrectly and without the proper knowledge may not give you the relief you need and, in some cases, can even put you at risk for worsening your condition. Before you take the “try before you buy” approach and ask your neighbor to borrow their CPAP machine for a night, consider the following. Here are all of the factors that go into filling out a CPAP prescription form:
- Patient’s personal information.
- The professional diagnosis of the patient’s sleep condition, which may be Obstructive Sleep Apnea, Central Sleep Apnea, or Mixed Sleep Apnea.
- The duration of treatment. Most of the time, this is a lifetime prescription.
- Type of machine recommended for proper treatment. (CPAP, APAP, BiPAP, etc.)
- Pressure setting for the machine, which may be fixed or range depending on the machine type.
- Mask and delivery system, which is usually chosen by the patient based on how they breathe and what they find most comfortable.
- A schedule of recommended replacements for masks, accessories, and other parts.
- Whether or not the patient will require a humidifier.
That’s just the basic information. Certain machine types will require further information. CPAP devices require a setting for single pressure. APAP machines require a pressure range, from minimum to maximum pressure. BiPAP machines may require all sorts of other information, like maximum IPAP pressure and minimum EPAP pressure, minimum and maximum pressure support, and breath rate.
As you can see, a CPAP machine is not something you can pick out of a lineup, pop on, and start your treatment.
Now that we’ve covered why not to get a CPAP machine without a prescription, let’s go over how to get your prescription and from whom.
Who Can Write a CPAP Prescription? What Kind of Doctor Should You See?
While your general physician or other MD you see on a regular basis may diagnose you with Sleep Apnea based on symptoms you’ve experienced, we recommend seeing a sleep specialist for a more thorough diagnosis. A sleep specialist will be able to assess your condition in more detail and write a prescription that is targeted to treat your specific issues.
There are a few ways to find a sleep specialist in your area. The first would be to ask your primary care physician to refer you. The second would be to look to your insurance, utilizing an “in-network doctor” search tool on their website. If all else fails, you can count on the National Sleep Foundation to search by zip code.
Once you’ve found your sleep specialist, you’ll be asked to participate in a sleep study. A sleep study is a non-invasive procedure that can be done in the lab or at home, depending on your comfort level. A sleep study works to identify apneas, or pauses in your breathing, oxygen levels, heart and breathing rates, and snoring throughout the night. With this data, your sleep specialist will be able to properly diagnose your condition and explain your course of treatment.
Selecting a CPAP Machine
You have done your sleep study and have your prescription. Congratulations, you’re on your way to a better night’s rest! The first thing you’ll want to do is determine where you’ll be buying your CPAP machine and have your doctor send your prescription there.
When you’re ready to get a CPAP machine, you may find that the number of options are overwhelming. You’ll need to choose a machine that’s in your price range, but you also want a mask that’s:
While these are some of the most popular mask features available today, CPAP masks come in all shapes, sizes, and kind. Depending on what features are most important to you, there’s ample opportunity to try out different CPAP masks and find the best one for you. For example, there are masks that: minimize claustrophobia, are designed for her, are ultra-quiet, or good for reading or TV.
There are so many options and new technology coming out everyday, it can be hard to decide on your own. That’s what our CPAP experts are here for! We know the equipment, the common issues, and how to get you into the best fit. When you’re ready to purchase a CPAP machine, just contact us and we’ll get you treatment-ready!
If you have questions about getting your first CPAP machine, feel free to call our CPAP experts at 1-800-356-5221. They’re knowledgeable, friendly, and ready to help you get connected to the treatment you need!
Daniela has researched and published over 60 articles covering topics that aim to inform and empower people living with Sleep Apnea. As an avid reader and researcher, Daniela continues to grow her knowledge about Sleep Apnea and CPAP therapy everyday with the help of coworkers, CPAP.com customers, and members of other CPAP communities online.