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Sleep Apnea Solutions

Are CPAP Machines Dangerous?

For years, CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machines was the widely used treatment for moderate to severe sleep apnea. Although effective, these machines have the reputation of being uncomfortable and disruptive. Research shows CPAP machines also come with certain risks and possible side effects. Before choosing a sleep apnea treatment, get familiarized with the risks and side effects associated with each.

Risks and Side Effects of CPAP Machines

CPAP machines force pressurized air through a hose and mask in order to open up the airways and improve breathing during sleep. In most cases, side effects and problems from CPAP machines disappear after continuous treatment or with adjustments to the mask and/or the amount of pressurized air the machine delivers.

Side effects with CPAP machines include sores and irritation from wearing the mask, congestion, headaches, runny nose, dry mouth or nosebleeds. These side effects often occur during early treatment with CPAP. But if these symptoms continue to occur they can become severe and increase the risk of throat infection, sinus infection and conjunctivitis.

Risks are rare but include stomach discomfort and bloating. If you experience any one of these complications, stop using your CPAP machine immediately. It is important to clean your mask and filter daily in order to avoid infections. Be sure to read your CPAP instruction manual for proper cleaning and maintenance instructions.

One potentially fatal danger of CPAP use is the development of meningitis. Meningitis is a bacterial infection of the lining of the spinal cord and brain. This complication is very rare, but is potentially fatal. Meningitis associated with CPAP use nearly always results from an untreated sinus infection. Symptoms of meningitis, such as severe headache, sensitivity to light, sleepiness, confusion, vision changes, stiff neck, high fever and vomiting, are considered a medical emergency.

Some patients experience claustrophobia (the feeling of being closed in) when using the CPAP mask. In these cases, it may be best to use a different type of mask or perform relaxation techniques before bed to help alleviate anxious, claustrophobic feelings.

Comparing Sleep Apnea Treatments

Thanks to the latest advances in sleep disorder treatments, CPAP machines are not the only treatment options available for sleep apnea. Oral appliance therapy is a non-invasive treatment that involves wearing a removable oral appliance when sleeping. Oral appliances fall into two categories: mandibular-repositioning devices (MRDs) and tongue-retaining devices (TRDs). Both MRDs and TRDs work to keep the airway clear during sleep, allowing for unobstructed breathing. Each sleep apnea treatment option comes with its own set of benefits and limitations:

CPAP TRD MRD
Health Side Effects Skin irritation, sores, congestion, headaches, runny nose, dry mouth, nosebleeds, infections Dry mouth, tooth and jaw discomfort, temporary bite changes Dry mouth, tooth and jaw discomfort, temporary bite changes
Benefits Non-invasive alternative to surgery Portable, comfortable to wear, non-invasive Portable, comfortable to wear, non-invasive
Other Side Effects Bulky; some patients report it being disruptive and uncomfortable Slight, temporary soreness in the jaw and mouth Slight, temporary soreness in the jaw and mouth

Learn More from Dr. Stein

With over 20 years of experience treating sleep apnea, Dr. Ivan Stein of New Jersey Sleep Apnea Solutions is the trusted choice for patients in New Jersey and the surrounding area. Dr. Stein can go over the benefits and limitations of each treatment option in detail with you during a personal consultation. To schedule an appointment, call (855) WHY-SNORE or (855) 949-7667 today.