When Choosing a Mask and Headgear



Once you have been prescribed Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy, you will need to be fitted for a connection to your nose and/or mouth, tubing and headgear- “an interface”. The mask is attached to tubing that, connected to the CPAP machine, delivers the pressurized air that prevents apneas form occurring. It is very important that the mask is comfortable and provides a proper seal for the airflow; the proper air pressure level cannot be established unless the fit is correct. Moreover, a comfortable mask that fits well will make using CPAP easier. In seeking a comfortable mask, keep in mind the fit (does the mask seal over your nose and/or mouth and/or are the straps too tight or too loose?), the size (do you have a small when you need a medium?), and the style, which is a personal preference that only you can determine. Most masks are triangular in shape and are worn over your nose (or the nose and mouth, with a full-face mask for the mouth breathers) while the adjustable straps of the headgear hold the mask in place. Straps that are too loose permit air to leak. Straps that are too tight can break the seal and create leaks’ any strap pulled too tightly can cause discomfort. Headgear straps must be snug enough for a good fit in all sleeping positions (back, side, and front) but not tight. “Quick-release” clips attach to the straps at the front of the mask or the strap hooks to one part of the mask; both allow for quick, easy removal of the mask. They also keep the straps in place so you do not have to adjust them each time you use the mask. Headgear comes in a variety of colors, sizes, and materials, but some masks can be used only with specific headgear (many masks are sold prepackaged with headgear). If you breathe through your mouth, you may also want to consider using a chin strap to help keep your mouth closed or a mask designed for mouth breathers. (If you regularly breathe through your mouth during the day because of nasal obstruction, a consultation with an ear-nose-and throat physician may be in order.) A chin strap is no recommended in that case.

  CPAP machines compensate for a “built-in leak” in the system usually near the exhalation port of the mask that is necessary to keep the air supply fresh. One mask includes over its exhalation port a small plastic piece filled with sound absorbing material that muffles the sound and dissipates or spreads the exhalation flow that may bohter a bed-partner. Too much leaking, though, may occur if the mask does not fit properly; excessive leaking reduces the set pressure and must be corrected (not to mention that leaks can irritate your eyes). Masks that are too large tend to leak more easily than snug ones, so as a rule of thumb, if in doubt, select the smaller. If you exted your tubing, keep in mind that doses longer than twelve feet generally will not maintain the proper pressure and may require increased pressure. (Discuss using longer hoses with a health care professional).


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