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Say Goodbye to CPAP Nose Sores: Effective Tips and Remedies

Table of Contents

Woman sleeping with CPAP mask having issues with nose sores and irritation

💡 Key Takeaways

  • Address Mask Fit and Pressure: A poorly fitting mask or high-pressure settings can cause friction and irritation, leading to nose sores. Make sure your mask fits properly, and consult your healthcare provider if you think your pressure is causing issues.
  • Identify Underlying Causes: Allergies, skin sensitivity, and nasal dryness are just a few things that can contribute to nose sores. Consider these factors and adjust your skincare routine or mask type accordingly.
  • Early Intervention is Crucial: At the first sign of discomfort or redness, start treating the affected area. Use CPAP-approved lotions or lanolin-based creams to moisturize and protect your skin during the day.
  • Daytime Treatments: Keep the sore clean and apply treatments like petroleum jelly or diaper cream during the day when you’re not using your CPAP machine.
  • Consult a Healthcare Provider: If over-the-counter remedies fail or symptoms worsen, seek medical advice for more advanced treatment options, which may include antibiotics or specialized wound care.

Let’s be honest! While sleep apnea treatment has many benefits, getting used to continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy can take some time. One of the most common issues we hear about is face and nose irritation from wearing a CPAP mask. Today we’re discussing CPAP nose sores and how to prevent them.

We’ll cover everything you need to know about treating and preventing nose sores, including why they develop, how to identify them, and how to treat them. We’ll also discuss some easy measures you can take to keep this from becoming a reoccurring issue!

Understanding CPAP Nose Sores

While this isn’t a hard and fast rule, most CPAP owners will experience minor skin irritation during their CPAP therapy journey. This includes nose sores!

These irritated spots typically appear just inside the nasal passages, under the nose itself, or along the nose bridge. They may appear as a minor open wound, but often, these sores look more like small, sensitive, red spots.

It’s important to note that the type of CPAP mask you use may impact certain parts of your face more than others. For example, a nasal pillow mask can irritate the area just inside the nostrils. In contrast, a traditional full face or nasal mask is more likely to irritate the skin along the bridge of the nose. Similarly, nasal cradle CPAP masks may rub along the base of your nose.

Nose Sores Impact CPAP Therapy Compliance

Unfortunately, this issue can lead people to use their CPAP devices less often or even quit CPAP therapy altogether. This is concerning for a couple of reasons.

Of course, sticking to your CPAP treatment plan helps keep your sleep apnea and its symptoms in check. Plus, it reduces your likelihood of experiencing the many health complications of both Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Central Sleep Apnea.

But what a lot of people don’t realize is that CPAP compliance can impact your health insurance as well. Many insurance companies will refuse to cover your new CPAP mask, device, and/or supplies if you fail to sleep with your CPAP for at least four hours a night, five nights a week.

So if you’re experiencing nose sores or any other issues that may impact your ability to wear your CPAP mask consistently, we encourage you to seek solutions that work for you. With the right information and a bit of trial and error, you can improve your health, protect your wallet, and rest comfortably for years to come!

Causes of CPAP Nose Sores

You may be experiencing skin irritation in or around your nose for several reasons. These may include allergies to facial products, recent illnesses, or chronic skin conditions.

It’s helpful to consider some of these factors before deciding that CPAP is to blame for your discomfort. That said, if you are confident that your CPAP equipment is causing your nose sores, there are a few reasons this may be the case. Let’s discuss them!

  • Mask Fit: If your CPAP mask is too tight or doesn’t fit properly, it can lead to rubbing between your skin and the mask itself. Combined with the pressure from a mask that may be too tight, this can result in increased friction, particularly along the sides and bridge of the nose.
  • Excessive Pressure: When it comes to CPAP therapy, high-pressure settings are a common cause of nose sores. The high flow of pressurized air tends to irritate any surrounding tissue, including the nose and throat. Luckily, this issue can usually be resolved with the right type of mask.
  • Nasal Passage Dryness: CPAP is designed to deliver pressurized air through your mouth and/or nose. As a result, people who sleep with a CPAP machine may experience nasal dryness. This can make you more prone to developing sores along your nasal passages.
  • Skin Sensitivity: Some individuals may have sensitive skin that reacts more easily to direct contact with a CPAP mask. If you fall into this category, it may be helpful to try using a mask liner.
  • Allergies: Many people don’t realize you can be allergic to the mask itself. If you have an allergy to a particular component of your CPAP mask, it can make your skin and nasal passages more prone to rashes and sores.
  • Mask Type: When it comes to CPAP therapy, not all masks are created equal. If you require highly pressurized air, it’s important to get a mask designed to maximize your comfort. While nasal pillow masks are a great option for many people, they can cause inner-nose irritation, so you may want to choose something else if you have a sensitive nose.

Symptoms of CPAP Nose Sores

If you are undergoing CPAP therapy and notice any of the following signs in or around your nose, you may be experiencing nose sores due to your CPAP machine.

  • Redness: You may notice red patches or areas of irritation.
  • Pain or Discomfort: Nose sores caused by CPAP can be painful or tender to the touch.
  • Dryness or Skin Peeling: The skin on your nose may become dry, cracked, or even peel slightly.
  • Ulcers: In some cases, these small irritations can progress to form small ulcers or blisters.
  • Scabbing or Crusting: The sores may scab over or develop a crust.
  • Bleeding: In severe cases, nosebleeds can occur due to irritation and damage.

It’s important to note that these sores may not be immediately visible. In the early stages, You may notice some minor sensitivity in the affected area. This can begin hours or even days before an obvious sore appears.

To prevent nose sores from becoming serious, your provider will likely encourage you to start treating the affected area when you first sense discomfort.

Treating CPAP Nose Sores

While it’s important to try to prevent nose sores as much as possible, if you are currently dealing with a nose sore related to your CPAP machine, there’s no need to be discouraged!

There are many things you can do to support healing and speed up recovery, depending on the cause, location, and severity of your sore. For example, sores that develop on the nose bridge may be easier to access and care for than those located inside the nasal passages.

While the following treatment options are standard for most CPAP-related nose sores, you should contact your doctor for individualized advice.

Daytime Treatments for Nose Sores

Here are some things you can do during the day, when not sleeping with your CPAP machine:

  • Keep It Clean: Regularly wash your face, including the affected area, with mild soap and warm water. By keeping your face clean, you can reduce the bacteria that naturally live on the surface of your skin and minimize your risk for infection.
  • Apply Petroleum Jelly: While petroleum jelly is a great way to treat open wounds, you should avoid using petroleum-based products while wearing your CPAP mask. CPAP masks are typically made with silicone, which can become degraded when it comes in contact with petroleum jelly. However, you can apply it to any sores during the day.
  • Apply Diaper Cream: Zinc Oxide is a common ingredient in most diaper creams. However, studies show that it may also minimize the risk of other types of skin irritation, including CPAP-related issues. Applying diaper cream is also great for early intervention!
  • Keep It Covered: Keep the sore clean and protected by covering it with a bandaid or other wound dressing. Doing so can reduce your risk of infection and promote healing.
  • Try a Warm Compress: Place a warm compress over the affected area for up to twenty minutes. The heat will improve blood flow, which boosts healing. It’s also a great way to minimize discomfort.

CPAP Mask-Friendly Treatments for Nose Sores

The following solutions can be applied any time of day, including while your wearing your CPAP mask:

  • Apply Lanolin: Place a small dab of lanolin-based cream on the affected area. If the sore is inside your nose, apply this cream using a Q-tip. This technique is beneficial for preventing and treating nose sores from nasal pillow masks.
  • Wear Wound-Friendly Moisturizer: Applying CPAP-approved lotion is a great way to moisturize your skin, including the affected area. Applying extra cream to any sensitive areas may be helpful when you first notice them.
  • Try Aloe Vera: Aloe vera can be very helpful for relieving the sting associated with facial sores. It can also provide much-needed moisture to the affected area. Aloe can be applied right before putting on your CPAP mask.
  • Use a Hydrocolloid Patch: Hydrocolloid patches protect the affected area while keeping the sore from oozing. These are helpful as a preventative measure or a treatment for existing sores, especially when they arise on the bridge of the nose.

Remember, early intervention is key to healing! So if you regularly deal with nose sores from your CPAP mask, it may be helpful to keep some supplies on hand.

Additionally, certain treatments should not be applied while using your CPAP machine. We suggest primarily using these treatment options when you first wake up and throughout the day, rather than waiting until the sore becomes irritated or flares up at night.

When to Seek Medical Treatment for a Nose Sore

If the over-the-counter remedies are ineffective or your symptoms worsen, we encourage you to see your healthcare provider for access to more advanced treatment options. This may include antibiotics or even wound care dressings.

Below are some of the most common signs of infection, which you should watch for!

  • Worsening Redness
  • The Affected Area Feeling Warm to the Touch
  • Severe Itchiness
  • Swelling
  • Increased Drainage
  • Swollen Lymph Nodes in the Surrounding Area
  • Fever
  • Body Aches

How to Prevent Nose Sores Caused by Your CPAP Machine

When it comes to most CPAP therapy side effects, it’s best to keep in mind an old saying, “The best defense is a good offense!” It is far more effective to prevent an issue before it occurs than to solve it later. And there is perhaps no better example of this than a nose sore caused by a CPAP machine.

Before we get into the steps you can take to prevent nose sores, it’s important to remind you that these suggestions are general tips. Some solutions may not work for everyone. It’s best to consult with a medical professional for preventative guidance regarding your specific case.

Keep Your Mask Clean

Maintaining a regular cleaning schedule for your equipment is crucial. This goes for CPAP masks too! Not cleaning your mask properly can lead to bacteria growth or residue buildup, which can lead to more facial sores.

Check Your Mask Fit

A properly fitting mask is key! A CPAP mask that is too tight or too loose will create additional friction against your skin, which will eventually cause a sore. For more advice on getting the best mask fit, check out Get the Best Mask Fit with Five Helpful Tips!

Use a Nasal Pillow Mask Liner

Nasal pillow mask liners are a great solution if you regularly experience sores inside of your nose due to your nasal pillow mask. They’re typically disposable and made of paper or soft cloth fabric. They can also help secure your nasal pillows for a better seal while reducing skin irritation in the nostrils.

Try a Padded Mask Liner

Trying a padded mask liner may be helpful if you wear a full face or nasal mask and are experiencing nose bridge sores. Like nasal pillow liners, there are also nasal padded mask liners and full face padded mask liners.

Padded mask liners fit along your regular CPAP mask cushion and decrease your risk of developing red marks and irritation, keep your seal secure, and can also add a soft touch to keep silicone off your skin.

Try a Gel Nasal Pad

Gel nasal pads like the Gecko or Boomerang are a great solution for nose bridge sores caused by traditional nasal or full face CPAP masks. For added cushion and comfort, apply these reusable, non-toxic gel pads to the bridge of your nose, before putting on your actual CPAP mask.

Use a Nasal Lubricant

CPAP air tends to cause nasal dryness, leaving you prone to developing sores inside your nose. One easy way to combat this is through the use of nasal lubricant. One example is NeilMed NasoGEL Spray, which brings much-needed moisture to your nose and sinuses.

Wear a Hydrocolloid Patch

If you do not wish to wear a mask liner, another effective method of limiting skin irritation is to wear a hydrocolloid patch over your most affected or sensitive areas. This can help prevent nose bridge sores and irritation around the sides and bottom of your nose.

Use a Heated Humidifier

Another great way to prevent nose sores is by using a heated humidifier! Most CPAP machines feature a heated humidifier, which helps reduce mouth and nasal passage dryness and sore throat. Humidified CPAP therapy adds more moisture to your air, reducing your likelihood of developing nose sores due to dryness.

Try a New Mask

If your nose sores continue to develop, despite your efforts, it may be a sign that it’s time to try a new CPAP mask. Even changing the material that your mask is made out of can make a big difference in helping to prevent nose sores.

Final Thoughts

CPAP nose sores are one of the more frustrating side effects of continuous positive airway pressure therapy. Depending on the type of mask you use, they can arise anywhere inside or around your nose but tend to develop in areas exposed to direct pressure from your CPAP mask.

There are many ways to prevent nose sores from popping up, such as cleaning your CPAP mask regularly and making sure your mask fits correctly. But if you find yourself with a sore caused by your CPAP device, it’s important to remember that early intervention is the key to a quick recovery!

Have you been struggling with CPAP mask discomfort? Check out our guide to solving the seven most common side effects of CPAP therapy!

  • Nate Devore

    Nate aims to make learning about sleep apnea and CPAP products as enjoyable as possible. When he's not spending time working, you'll find him volunteering at the local animal shelter or cultivating his vegetable garden.

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