CPAP stands for "continuous positive airway pressure." CPAP pumps air under pressure into the airway, keeping the windpipe open during sleep. The forced air delivered by CPAP prevents episodes of airway collapse that block the breathing in persons with obstructive sleep apnea and other breathing problems.
It is sometimes called nasal continuous positive airflow pressure (nCPAP).
WHO SHOULD USE CPAP
CPAP can successfully treat most people with obstructive sleep apnea. It is safe and works well for people of all ages, including children. If you only have mild sleep apnea and do not feel very sleepy during the day, you may not need it.
After using CPAP regularly, you may notice:
CPAP works by keeping a steady pressure of forced air in your airway to keep it open. Other devices work in slightly different ways to treat sleep apnea:
BiPAP is useful for children and adults who have:
CPAP or BiPAP may also be used by people who have:
HOW CPAP WORKS
When using CPAP:
You may start to use CPAP while you are in the sleep center for the night.
If you are using CPAP but your symptoms don’t improve, the settings on the machine may need to be changed. Your health care provider may teach you how to adjust the CPAP at home. Or, you may need to go to the sleep center to have it adjusted.
GETTING USED TO THE DEVICE
It can take time to get used to using a CPAP device. The first few nights of CPAP therapy are often the hardest. You may not sleep well at the start of treatment.
If you are having problems, you may be tempted not to use CPAP for the whole night. However, you’ll get used to it more quickly if you use the machine for the entire night.
When using CPAP for the first time, you may have:
Many of these problems can be helped or prevented.
Your doctor or therapist can lower the pressure on the CPAP machine and then increase it again at a slow pace. Some new machines can automatically adjust to the pressure that is needed.
Continuous positive airway pressure; CPAP; Bilevel positive airway pressure; BiPAP; Autotitrating positive airway pressure; APAP; nCPAP
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Updated by: Allen J. Blaivas, DO, Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, Attending Physician in the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine, Department of Veteran Affairs, VA New Jersey Health Care System, East Orange, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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