Are you stuck in a CPAP mask rut? Have you been using the same mask for years? Or are you using the same mask that is given to every patient who visits your medical equipment company? Have you ever stopped to consider all the different mask types and how they might affect your CPAP therapy?
Many of our customers have never considered a different type of mask or even a newer, more advanced mask of the same type they currently use. And while the adage often holds true that “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it”, there is still something to be said for educating yourself about the new mask technology available and the types of masks that might be better for your sleep situation.
THE NASAL CPAP MASK
The most commonly used mask (especially for first time CPAP users), the nasal CPAP mask is probably the mask we think of most often when picturing CPAP therapy. This sort of mask covers the nose only, generally with triangular shape silicone or foam cushion. It most often has a forehead support that helps keep the mask in place, and will have tubing that either goes up and over the head or hangs down in front.
- Great for a wide range of patients
- Available in many different styles by every major brand
- Sometimes easier to fit and put on than other styles of masks
- Extra stability due to forehead support
- Won’t work for those who breathe from their mouths or who experience significant “mouth leak”
- Most styles obstruct vision to a certain degree due to their forehead supports
- Sometimes can make patients feel claustrophobic
- Most often given to new patients without consideration for that specific patient’s needs and sleep style
Now, even though the nasal mask is an old standby favorite, we’ve seen the technology increase tremendously in the past five or six years. Masks are smaller, lighter in weight, and have more comfortable headgear. One of our newest nasal CPAP masks is the Fisher & Paykel Eson Nasal CPAP Mask, and this mask is one of the lightest nasal CPAP masks. A great choice for those who love their nasal mask but would like to try a newer, lighter style.
THE NASAL PILLOWS CPAP MASK
Ah, this is the mask style that, in a perfect world, every CPAP user would be able to comfortably wear, because these masks are definitely the smallest and least obtrusive of the bunch. Designed to either fit inside or just around your nostrils, these masks are the smallest option for effective CPAP therapy. But, unfortunately, not everyone can tolerate nasal pillows style CPAP masks due to the fact that the air is being compressed out of smaller holes and to a more centralized (often sensitive) area of the face.
- Lightweight and definitely the least claustrophobic
- Offer the most range of vision, so you can read or watch TV before bed
- Available in many different styles (those that have prongs that go into the nostrils or larger cushions that just “float” around the nostrils)
- Great for active sleepers who can’t keep on other types of masks and works well for people with facial hair
- Not great for those with sensitive nostrils
- Will not work for those who breathe from their mouths or have significant “mouth leak”
- A bit more advanced and might take a bit more work to get just right
- Multiple and very different styles mean that it is often hard to find the perfect mask for your face and sleeping style. Unlike nasal masks, which have a general design, these masks can be very different. One may work very well, while another irritates and annoys you.
Just like our nasal masks, we’ve seen a definite increase in the technology revolving around our nasal pilliows CPAP masks. Many manufacturers have focused on perfecting this popular mask style after seeing the success of the original ResMed Swift CPAP Mask. The newest available nasal pillows style masks are the Fisher & Paykel Pilairo, the ResMed Swift FX and the Respironics GoLife (available For Men and For Women).
THE FULL FACE CPAP MASK
Many full face CPAP mask users would say they have a love/hate relationship with their mask. These masks solve an important problem in CPAP therapy, but they are generally considered a last resort for patients. People who breathe through their mouths while sleeping (whether it be because of habit or because of clogged sinuses or any number of other factors) often cannot use other nasal mask options. The air that is being forced through the airway to prevent apneas will leak right out of the open mouth.
Now, many patients find that they can prevent this leak by using a sturdy chin strap with their nasal mask solution, but those patients who cannot make it work even then (and who are unsure why their therapy seems ineffective despite compliance) will find that a full face CPAP mask is the way to go. And don’t be too dreary if you’ve been prescribed one, because these masks are much lighter, smaller and better fitting than they used to be. Full face masks can be comfortable and can provide many benefits when chosen correctly and for the right patients.
- Great for people with sinus problems, allergies, colds or general nasal sensitivity
- The increased distribution of air over the face often makes higher pressures seem less forceful
- Great for bipap or bilevel use
- Offers greater stability due to area of the face covered and placement of headgear
- Can be somewhat obtrusive and can initially cause feelings of claustrophobia
- Often harder to prevent leaks, as the seal covers such a large area of the face
- Most obstruct view somewhat (though some newer masks, such as the ResMed Quattro FX, eliminate this problem with a newer design style that lacks a forehead support)
- Are generally a bit more expensive than other masks
Newer full face CPAP masks to check out are the ResMed Quattro Series of Full Face Masks (there are a few different styles available), and the very well-reviewed Fisher & Paykel Forma Full Face Mask.
OTHER MASK STYLES
Though generally less popular with CPAP users, there are a few other categories of mask styles that might be useful for certain customers.
Hybrid CPAP masks combine a nasal pillows style mask with an oral cushion that covers the mouth. We’ve found one to be extremely popular with users who are interested in having a full face style mask that is somewhat less obtrusive than a standard full face mask – the RespCare Hybrid Universal Full Face Mask and Headgear. This mask is very well-reviewed and great for those on a budget. We highly recommend it to patients interested in trying out a hybrid style mask.
Oral CPAP masks (or, really, just “mask” as there is only one style available) bypass the nose altogether for air delivery through the mouth. The Fisher & Paykel Oracle Oral mask uses something similar to a SCUBA regulator to deliver air to the mouth and throat. Nose plugs are used to ensure that air does not leak from the nostrils. This can be a good choice for those who are finding their noses to be sore or nasal passages to be swollen from standard mask designs. It is not a good choice for patients with TMJ or jaw problems. And it should ALWAYS be used with heated humidification to prevent drying.
Do you want to try a new mask or get more information on the style that would work best for you? Give our staff a call! We can give more in depth information about any of our masks or mask types.