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78: The one problem EVERY CPAP user will have

cpap Sep 30, 2023
The one problem EVERY CPAP user will have

The function of your CPAP mask is to conduct the pressurized air from your machine into your nose (or into your mouth) so your airway is supported and stays open during sleep.  This means you can breathe normally and sleep normally.  

At some point, every CPAP user will have to deal with air leak.  Eliminating mask leak is important because that air is part of your treatment and needs to go to the right place.  Successful CPAP users need to know how to solve mask leak when it comes up. 

You do have some “intentional leak” to let carbon dioxide out.  This is the exhalation port, and it consists of small holes in your mask or at the place where your tubing inserts into the mask.  This post is to help troubleshoot leaks coming from the places that are meant to be sealed.

Detecting mask leak:   You might hear a high-pitched whine or whooshing air that doesn't seem right.  You could have a sound like a whoopie cushion, affectionately known as face farts, because the air is escaping around the cushion.  You might FEEL air leaking in a place other than the exhalation port, such as over the bridge of your nose.  You can also feel an air leak coming from your tubing, so check that too.  Your machine may be REPORTING a leak, oftentimes this is a significant leak that it can't compensate for, such as mouth breathing with a nasal mask.  Or you might have dry eyes or a dry mouth.  And with nasal masks, it's a problem to have air coming out of your mouth because your therapy is escaping.  

Here are the most common reasons for mask leak:  

  • Your mask cushion (the soft part that touches your skin) is dirty
  • Your mask is old and can’t make a stable seal anymore
  • The seal was fragile and changing your body or head position disrupted it
  • Your headgear too is too loose (or too tight!)
  • Your CPAP pressure is too high for the mask you are using
  • You have a nasal pillow, nasal cradle, or nasal mask and your mouth came open during sleep
  • You had a significant change in your weight
  • Your mask is the wrong size

In the Ultimate CPAP Mask Course, I have a video that walks you through solving mask leak step by step.  I talk about ways to extend the life of your mask and what to do in special circumstances, such as having a retainer or thick facial hair.  There are accessories that can help, and I lay out a way to get the best fit for your mask.  




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