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CPAP

A phrase for today: Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, usually known as CPAP, pronounced "See-Pap."

As you know, you snore when your air flow is disrupted when you sleep, causing your nose or throat tissues to start vibrating.  When the disruption is so bad that you cannot breathe at all for short periods, that's called obstructive sleep apnea.   To counteract this, apnea sufferers are often prescribed respiration machines that deliver continuous positive airway pressure  -- inflating the throat, keeping your airways open.  A major benefit is that the CPAP system will correct not only your apnea but your snoring as well.

How it works
A CPAP device consists of an air blower which you place next to your bed, and a mask which fits over over your nose during sleep.  The  pressure from the air blower forces air through your nasal passages. The air pressure is adjusted so that it is just enough to prevent the throat from collapsing during sleep.

The good news

CPAP systems have been shown highly effective in preventing sleep apnea and snoring.

The downside

This is a lifetime treatment:  apnea episodes return as soon as you ditch your CPAP machine.  Why would you do that?  Many people have found CPAP systems unbearably claustrophobic; they may cause  nasal irritation and drying, facial skin irritation, abdominal bloating, mask leaks, sore eyes, and headaches.  And they are not exactly conducive to spontaneous romance in the middle of the night. As many as 50% of patients quit wearing them. However, modern CPAP systems are far less intrusive than some of the earlier machines, and the air blowers are quieter, so compliance has been increasing steadily.  When you consider the surgical alternatives -- and their fairly low long-term success rate -- CPAP may be the way to go.  One thing is certain: you cannot ignore your apnea; over time it will kill you.

 

 



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