CPAP mask is an integral component of the CPAP machine and any leaks, major or minor, should be addressed immediately. When a CPAP mask leaks, the user’s brain tries to compensate the loss of air with biochemical responses, which can negatively impact the body.
Types of Mask Leaks
Seal Leak is one of the most common forms of Mask Leaks. It appears when the air from a CPAP machine leaks from the gap between the CPAP mask and the user’s face.
Mouth Leak happens when the user sleeps with his mouth open, and the air which is supposed to go to the lungs, escapes through the open mouth.
Side Effects of CPAP Mask Leaks
Any CPAP Mask leaks are hazardous. Leaks can result in putting more pressure on the CPAP machine to maintain the air pressure, and impair the ability of the sensors to detect flaws.
Secondly, the leaks might blow into the user’s eyes, make unusual noises, resultingh in frequently disturbed sleep or may cause dryness in the mouth and nose, triggering a series of other issues.
Things to Remember Before Purchasing a CPAP Mask
Choose an Appropriate Mask
Once the CPAP machine has been prescribed, the next important thing is to select a suitable device and in this context, choosing an appropriate mask becomes essential. There are three types of masks, namely:
Ideally, the user should try different varieties of the mask types mentioned above, narrow down the selection and then finally select the most appropriate mask.
- Full face mask
- Nasal mask
- Nasal pillows
Steps To Fit the Mask Like an Expert
Once the selection process is complete, the user should know how to wear the mask correctly by following the below mentioned steps:
For CPAP Nasal Pillows and Nasal Masks
- The headgear should be adjusted very loosely while standing up. The mask should feel like it can fall off at any minute.
- Next, the user should lie down in a supine position (on the back) and adjust the pillow comfortably. Once the pillow is adjusted, the machine should be plugged in, attached to the mask and turned on. (Sometimes, the DME may not supply a CPAP machine with the user’s prescribed pressures leading to an improper fit. In such a case, the user can bring their own CPAP machine.)
- The user should let the mask fill with air by lifting the mask slightly away from the face. Once filled with air, the user should replace the mask on the face and make the necessary adjustments to the head strap. An important thing to note here is that the mask should be comfortable and not too tight. The user can ignore any minor leaks from the mask at this juncture. The user can eliminate these leaks by running a fingertip along the seams between the facial skin and the outer cushion cover of the mask.
- A CPAP mask can sometimes leak around the eyes. To eliminate these leaks, the mask should be lifted slightly, allowed to be filled with natural air, laid back just below the nasal bridge and slid up to the nasal bridge, which is where the user wants it. This would help in sealing any minor leaks as well as turn the mask’s cushion cover edge inside, thereby protecting the skin.
- Mask leaks either around or under the nose can be plugged by twitching the nose or moving the jaw (back and forth) and lips (sideways, up and down). These facial movements would help in sealing the minor leaks.
- After trying and adjusting the mask leaks in the supine posture, the user should try the mask while lying on the sides. If any leaks are encountered, then necessary adjustments should be made. The user should always keep in mind that the mask should not be uncomfortable or very tight. Using an uncomfortable mask over a period may create problems.
- If the above adjustments are not working with one mask, the user should try another mask and repeat the entire process. The mask which ensures no leakages should be selected. Once selected, the user should patiently prepare oneself for getting used to the new mask. The process of adjustment and getting accustomed to a new mask can take up to a week.
- Once the user selects a mask, the distance between the nose cushion on the top as well as bottom of the mask should be looked at carefully. The distance should not be too long or short, the width between the lower cheeks (around the mouth) and the nose should be checked. The user should give due importance to the cushion’s inside fit and not just the outside measurements.
- Since a wrong angle could result in discomfort for the user, CPAP users need to regularly adjust the angle between the nasal bridge and the forehead. To address this, the users must keep the top straps loose in comparison to the bottom straps.
For Full Face Masks
- An optimum seal of the face mask can be obtained by raising the mask about an inch from the face and then repositioning it back. This should be done after the user has adjusted the straps. The user has to make sure that the mask is not too tight and that the cushion is well-seated.
- One crucial aspect that the user has to remember is gravity. If the user sleeps sideways, then the mask would be tight. However, if the user does rest in the supine, then it would be loose. And if the user shifts position a lot during sleep, then frequent adjustments would be required.
- FFMs (Full Face Masks) are bigger, so users who sleep sideways face issues with the mask pushing into the lower cheeks resulting in leaks as well as soreness. Hence, proper adjustment is required.
Other Options To Reduce CPAP Mask Leaks
If, despite all the efforts, the user still has issues with comfort and Mask Leaks, then the user should consider using the PA Pillow, a unique pillow for CPAP users. These pillows are hard enough to provide stable support while keeping its shape intact. These pillows have a curve at the bottom for supporting the neck as well as curves on the right and the left side, which allows proper positioning of the user’s head. This helps in keeping the mask suspended off the pillow’s edge.