12 CPAP Side Effects That May Be Concerning
Continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP for short, is the most used treatment option for patients suffering from obstructive sleep apnea. With that said, there are some side effects that you should be aware of if you plan on undergoing such a treatment.
CPAP, just like any other treatment method, has some common side effects. They shouldn't be any cause for concern, but you must prepare yourself for them. For instance, the CPAP machine itself has its advantages and disadvantages.
If you already have underlying health issues, you'll want to be prepared and utterly sure that you're willing to deal with the side effects of the CPAP treatment. We're stressing this point because these side effects are usually overlooked and might cause minor issues if left untreated.
In this article, we'll be discussing 12 CPAP treatment side effects so you can become more acquainted with the disadvantages of CPAP. If you have any further questions, you can always consult with your doctor. He'll be able to give a more accurate answer relating to your specific condition. With that said, let us look at the most common CPAP side effects.
1. Aerophagia (Air Swallowing)
Air swallowing is probably the most common side effect caused by CPAP treatment. This particular side effect is problematic as it can entail many other issues, such as bloating, gas issues, and general abdominal discomfort. Aerophagia happens due to the way that CPAP machines work.
As the name implies, continuous positive airway pressure means that the CPAP machine pumps air through the upper airway to your lungs. The reason it can be problematic is because of the trachea, which is an opening that leads to the esophagus and stomach. When the CPAP machine pushes air into the upper airway, some can transition down to the throat; This can lead to the stomach is filled with gas, resulting in the conditions we mentioned earlier, such as bloating and abdominal discomfort.
Overall, air swallowing isn't a significant side effect. Most people quickly find relief, and it rarely lingers. Changing sleeping positions or only passing gas generally helps a lot in relieving any feelings of discomfort associated with air swallowing.
With that said, it must be noted that if it persists or becomes a recurring thing, they can become more problematic and cause heartburn issues. If you start experiencing such patterns, we recommend seeking an expert's opinion to find a solution to the problem.
2. Nasal Congestion
Nasal congestion is yet another common CPAP side effect. Unlike air swallowing, it can be very annoying and persistent. Nasal congestion usually happens due to CPAP therapy, causing humidification issues and insufficient moisture in the patient's nasal passages. In some extreme cases, CPAP therapy can even cause nasal dryness, which can result in nose burning, nose bleed, irritation, and persistent runny nose.
One possible way of preventing nasal congestion is by ordering a cold water humidifier with their CPAP machine order. If you already have a humidifier with your CPAP machine, you might want to swap it with a heated humidifier. It will heat the air as it goes through to your nose and lungs. It will also heat the water, which helps create more moisture, which should help avoid nasal congestion, irritation, and dryness.
3. Headache And Ear Pressure
While CPAP treatment is meant to help with the headache issue in patients suffering from sleep apnea, there have been reports showing the opposite. These reports showed CPAP causing headaches for people who didn't have them before undergoing the treatment. The same goes for ear pressure issues. Some studies try to explain the reason behind this.
One such study showed that CPAP treatment could affect the middle ear resulting in more pressure. Despite ear pressure issues not being too common among sleep apnea patients, it's still worth mentioning possible side effects of CPAP treatment.
Furthermore, ear pressure issues can cause many other health problems, such as hearing loss, headaches, tinnitus, and vertigo. Some patients can experience multiple side effects at once. Nasal and ear congestions can also lead to intense headaches as well as symptoms of a cold.
In case of any of these side effects occurring to you, make sure to contact your doctor so that the necessary steps can be taken to prevent these side effects. There are multiple ways to deal with them, such as decongestants, medications, and antihistamines, but it's up to your doctor to decide the best approach.
4. Eye Irritation
Eye irritation is a common side effect of CPAP treatment caused by the CPAP machine itself. It'scaused by leaking air from the machine's vents or the mask, which moves past the eyes through the mask, leading to eye dryness and irritation.
If these problems are left untreated, eye irritations can transpire into dire health issues such as corneal abrasions and severe ocular diseases. Some patients have even reported glaucoma cases as well as eye and nerve damage, or even conjunctivitis.
However, these cases are rare and only occur if the CPAP machine is left in poor conditions. It takes a while for eye irritations to transpire into such serious issues, but it should be immediately taken care of once you start to notice any ocular irritations.
To prevent such side effects altogether is by applying artificial tears before going to sleep and putting the CPAP mask in place. Alternatively, you can get a mask with a tight-fitting so that it won't move during sleep.
5. Skin Marks and Rashes
Skin rashes, irritation, marks are among the most common CPAP side effects. With that said, they can vary a lot in severity from one patient to another. If treated promptly, they can be avoided altogether. However, there are some cases where they can persist and turn into different forms of dermatitis and skin allergies.
The reason behind this side effect lies in the CPAP machine, which houses a lot of bacteria that can get onto the skin as the patient is using the mask. It is crucial to keep your CPAP mask and house clean. You can clean your CPAP hose and mask via CPAP machine cleaners, mask wipes, or mask cleaners.
When it comes to skin irritation, it is most commonly experienced among patients with silicon allergy. Masks that don't have a good fit can also cause similar issues and can result in red marks on the skin or even skin breakage. However, this can be avoided by getting masks with a good fit.
For some patients, wearing a mask while sleeping can cause discomfort. Claustrophobia is quite common in sleep apnea patients that undergo CPAP therapy. It mostly occurs among patients who have just started their CPAP therapy, and this can lead to anxiety and panic attacks if they don't get used to the mask and the noise coming from the CPAP machine.
Claustrophobia is also quite coming among people who don't feel comfortable wearing anything on their faces while trying to fall asleep, and this usually comes from the fear of the mask, strangling them, or causing asphyxiation. Having one's line of sight limited can also cause breathing issues and general discomfort when wearing the CPAP mask.
There have been some cases where CPAP therapy caused pneumonia. The Canadian Medical AssociationJournal has studies showing that CAP treatment, along with sleep apnea, can result in a higher risk of pneumonia, mainly because sleep apnea patients don't cough up the mucus from their lungs.
Furthermore, the air that the CPAP machine is pumping can contain bacteria contaminants, increasing the likelihood of bacterial infection in the lungs and pneumonia. You must clean the CPAP humidifier and tubing regularly to minimize this risk.
8. Chest Pain and Cardiac Arrhythmias
Another common side effect among patients who undergo CPAP treatment is chest pain. There's a case report showing that some patients suffering from sleep apnea also have heart block, chest pain, and coronary artery disease, mostly due to sleep apnea, causing transient nocturnal hypoxia or oxygen saturation.
Additionally, the same case report mentions that cardiac arrhythmias and chest pain tend to occur in sleep apnea patients who undergo CPAP treatment and are also suffering from obesity. To be more specific, sleep apnea patients with a BMI above 30 have a significantly increased risk of experiencing cardiac issues than other sleep apnea patients.
Pneumocephaly is a rare case where the air from the CPAP machine accumulates intracranially, or within the skull, and this can cause dire neurological effects as well as terrible headaches.
10. Pulmonary Barotrauma
There is a minimal risk that the CPAP machine will cause the air pressure to rise dramatically and quickly reach dangerous levels, resulting in lung barotrauma or pulmonary.
Additionally, it can cause other serious respiratory problems.
11. Intraocular Hypertension
This is yet another rare side effect that can occur among patients suffering from glaucomatous, which happens because CPAP treatment increases pressure inside the eye, which results in higher intraocular pressure. As a result, pressure tends to build up in the eye since the eye's front isn't capable of adequately draining fluid.
12. Subcutaneous emphysema
Subcutaneous emphysema refers to air being trapped under skin tissue and is a scarce side effect of CPAP treatment. If this complication starts to rise, CPAP therapy must be stopped.
How to Prevent CPAP Side Effects
Clean the CPAP Regularly
Most of the side effects we went through in this article can be avoided altogether if you keep the CPAP machine parts clean. Having them stay contaminated with bacteria can dramatically increase the risk of adverse health issues arising.
We highly recommend cleaning the CPAP machine parts after each use. You can clean those using CPAP cleaners. Additionally, there are cleaning brushes, sprays, cleaning wipes, and surface cleaners that you can use.
Opt For Proper-Fitting Mask
Getting the proper-fitting mask can help you avoid side effects such as skin irritation, rashes, skin breakage, eye irritation, and many other problems. It can also help you sleep more comfortably.
There are various types of masks that you can choose from, such as full-face masks, partial masks, and many other brands. If you don't know which mask you should go for, you can consult with your doctor.
Protect Your Skin
Wearing a mask on our face for several hours a day is bound to damage your skin in the long run. You must keep it protected. You can use mask barriers that are made from gel, natural fabric, or other good for the skin.
Some masks also come with hypoallergenic tapes as barriers. These mask barriers can help prevent skin rashes and irritations. They can be bought online or in dedicated CPAP equipment shops.
Check the humidifier
The majority of CPAP therapy side effects can be attributed to the humidifier not being clean or working correctly. Some patients choose to swap to heated humidifiers to prevent nasal irritation, mouth dryness, and numerous other side effects.
Tips For a Smoother CPAP Treatment Experience
Avoiding Oil-based Products
It is recommended that you avoid putting on the CPAP mask if your face is covered in moisturizer or makeup since the oil from these products can build up quickly.
In the case of nasal congestion, it is recommended to talk with your doctor and ask for a suitable sinus medication to remedy any related side effects.
Adjusting the pressure
It is essential for changing the pressure settings on the CPAP machine to an appropriate level. If you set inadequate pressure levels, you risk pushing too much air into your lungs, which leads to air swallowing and things such as bloating and gas issues.
Having the mask straps too tight can lead to various skin issues and irritations. Make sure your mask straps are not too tight or loose so you can't sleep comfortably while avoiding side effects. Havinginadequately adjusted ask straps can even lead to claustrophobia and similar issues.