Consider this situation: a patient with a diagnosis of obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) arrives for a follow-up appointment. While speaking with the doctor, the patient announces that they are quitting CPAP therapy. This scenario happens often. Some patients want to stop therapy because they feel unable to tolerate it.
OSA is usually considered a lifelong condition, and data on unresolved OSA has shown the adverse physiological effects that can occur when Sleep Apnea treatment is stopped. Clinicians realize that follow-up appointments about CPAP therapy are necessary to ensure compliance with treatment.
Here are some of the top reasons Sleep Apnea patients are quitting CPAP therapy and a few suggestions on how to overcome these pain points.
Waiting Too Long Can Lead to Not Starting CPAP At All
Research has confirmed that the longer you wait to start CPAP therapy, after diagnosis, the more likely Sleep Apnea therapy is delayed all together. The pattern of CPAP use (or nonuse) is established shortly after diagnosis.
Patients must actively participate in their own treatment or CPAP will not provide effective therapy.
If you are newly diagnosed with Sleep Apnea, make sure that you get started with your CPAP equipment and therapy as soon as possible.
Discomfort with CPAP Equipment = Quitting CPAP
The CPAP mask may feel too large, small, or tight which can leave red marks on the face or give a feeling of claustrophobia. The CPAP air may be blowing too hard or it may be leaking out of the mask. Whatever the issue, there are lots of people who just can’t find comfort using CPAP equipment and therefore discontinue use.
At CPAP.com we have come to realize that Sleep Apnea patients don’t often know that they have a lot of choices when it comes to CPAP equipment. Usually they think they are stuck with the one CPAP, APAP, or BiPAP machine or mask that the durable equipment manufacturer (DME) supplied to them. And that is simply not true. When it comes to CPAP equipment, you have lots of options.
Excess Air in the Stomach Can Be a Huge Pain
CPAP users who experience belching, stomach bloating, stomach distension and agonizing gas pains may be suffering from aerophagia. It’s the medical term for the phenomenon when air enters the esophagus, goes into the belly and causes bloating.
Aerophagia and stomach bloating is more common than you might think and it’s a subject that most don’t feel comfortable talking about.
But this side effect of CPAP use is important to discuss because with a few changes to CPAP therapy, it can be resolved.
Here are a few things that could cause this & suggestions on how to fix:
- If your CPAP pressure is too high then the extra air that is blowing in the machine has nowhere to go except your stomach. Discuss your CPAP pressure with your doctor to see if you can get it decreased.
- Contrary to above, your CPAP air pressure could be too low and doesn’t give you the needed support to help your Sleep Apnea events, so you gulp air quickly in an effort to get more into your lungs. Just like the above discuss this with your doctor to see if you need a higher pressure setting.
- You may find it difficult to exhale over the constant pressure of the air delivered by a CPAP machine. Inhalation of a high pressure may be easy, but exhaling is more difficult. When this occurs, the patient may fall out of the natural rhythm of breathing and hyperventilation may occur. This can result in quick sucking in or gulping of air, and that air may be forced into the esophagus rather than the lungs. Available on most CPAP machines is a comfort feature called expiratory pressure relief. Depending on which brand of machine you have, it may be called CFLEX, AFLEX OR BIFLEX. This feature automatically reduces air pressure upon exhale and can help reduce or eliminate aerophagia.
Contact CPAP.com and see if this feature is enabled on your CPAP machine.
Dryness of the Nose & Throat Can Be Irritating
To one degree or another, CPAP air is an irritant to everyone. This irritation may build up over time or be a factor as soon as CPAP therapy begins.
CPAP air may:
- Dry out the nasal passages and cause bleeding and/or swelling
- Produce excess mucus, cause congestion, and/or sneezing
- The nasal irritation also creates a very fertile ground for infections
Using humidification will add moisture to the CPAP air, therefore CPAP humidification is a critical part of CPAP Therapy.
Humidification is an added comfort feature, and although it increases compliance in most patients by making CPAP therapy more tolerable, a humidifier is not a requirement for CPAP therapy. So check your CPAP machine to make sure that it came with a humidifier.
There are two types of CPAP humidifiers
- Passover Humidifier or “Cold Humidifier”: Adds a chamber of water to the machine. The air picks up the available moisture as it “passes over” the water in the chamber.
- Heated Humidifier: This type of CPAP humidifier sits on a heater plate. The increasing temperature of the heater plate heats the water in the chamber and adds moisture to air flowing through.
Don’t Quit Your CPAP Therapy
There are many other reasons people are quitting CPAP therapy. Hopefully this list of the top four demonstrates that with every problem, there is a solution. So don’t give up. Nothing compares to the enhanced quality of life that a good night’s sleep will bring you when you continue your CPAP therapy!
Have you experienced any of these symptoms and want to share any tips you have for overcoming them? Let us know in the comments section.
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.