After a person is diagnosed with sleep apnea (obstructive, central or mixed), the next step is to buy a CPAP mask. Many users just go ahead and buy any mask that is offered by the local DME (Durable Medical Equipment) without enough research.
Let’s look at some important aspects that should be taken into consideration while choosing a CPAP mask.
Selecting Appropriate Mask for Sleep Study
While undergoing a sleep study, the user should choose the mask that is the best suited and works well. They should take help of a sleep technician for this purpose. This will help them in understanding the process as well as make the entire mask purchasing process smoother.
Offline Purchase is Preferred
When it comes to getting the CPAP equipment, getting it from the local DME shop is preferred. This would ensure that user can try out different types and if there are any issues, then the user can take it to the local DME’s office and either get the problem rectified or get the mask replaced.
The CPAP user should ideally try different masks either from the same company or other companies and understand how it works. Ease of use should ideally be the higher priority for the user, not the looks.
CPAP mask should be comfortable to the user and has to have a proper seal for airflow. Also, the straps should be adjustable to keep the mask in place.
If the mask is loose, there would be air leaks; which can cause pain on the bridge of the nose and also the chances of the seal breaking is higher, both of which can be easily avoided.
When the CPAP equipment is set up, the user should talk with the DME and try to understand everything about the mask and get all doubts clarified.
The user should ensure that the DME does not push a mask which is not as per his comfort. If the mask is not an appropriate fit when trying it in store, then the chances of it getting better with time or while sleeping are very less.
Mask Size and Style
The size (large, medium, small), style and fit (full face or nasal or both) of CPAP mask is primarily a personal preference, and the user should try out different types of masks to see what fits best.
A common mistake that many make is opting for a bigger mask than necessary. The chances of leakage from a big mask are higher, hence choosing a smaller size is usually preferred, unless otherwise explicitly instructed by the sleep doctor.
Quick Release Clips
Some mask comes equipped with straps that have quick-release clips either in the front or on the side of the mask. The clips enable the user to quickly remove the CPAP mask in case the user suffers from CPAP claustrophobia.
Try out CPAP Masks
Ideally, the user should try out different types of masks before purchasing the appropriate one. While trying on the mask, the user should try these with a CPAP machine which is running at the user’s prescribed pressure setting. The user should try the mask while laying down in the typical sleeping position.
This is important since the mask fit is often quite a bit different when trying them while standing than trying them in sleeping position with prescribed setting. If the mask interferes with the way the user sleeps then the mask is not a proper fit and should be ideally replaced.
When planning to buy a mask from a DME, the user has to know whether the DME is covered by the insurance plan that he has. The user should also check whether the DME participates in the 30-day exchange/return policy which many mask manufacturers offer.
This is important because the user can exchange the mask if he finds it unsuitable within the stipulated time without incurring any cost.
While many DMEs tend to listen to user’s needs and are willing to go one step further, some DME are not so patient. In principle, they should work with the user to see what best fits the user. Many DME’s hesitate to discuss and demonstrate different types of masks to users since it costs them time and money.
The insurance company pays the DME a fixed amount for a particular interface, be it a $120 mask or $20 mask. This results in the DME trying to sell cheaper masks. The user should be firm while deciding the mask and should not accept any mask which they feel is not right for them.
As always, in case of any problem, it is always advisable to get in touch with the prescribing doctor and do necessary changes only under medical supervision.