DR. DONALD JOHNSON: Alternative for ‘CPAP’ Users

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Mayo Clinic lists 10 of the problems that people commonly have with CPAP. But none of the problems listed by the Mayo Clinic address the big problem--the power source! What do you do when there is no place to plug the machine into? Camping, backpacking, hunting, etc. — a small custom made oral appliance may be your answer. Below are the ten things Mayo Clinic lists as the top problems.

First is the wrong style or wrong size of mask. There are dozens of styles and it could take weeks for you to find the right one, especially if you have facial hair. There are masks that cover your nose and mouth and others that go into your nose if you can tolerate them.

Second on the list is a real BIG problem — patients cannot get used to having that mask on their face. Studies have shown that if a patient cannot tolerate any mask within the first month, they usually never will be able to tolerate one.

The third problem they list is the patient’s inability to put up with air being forced into their airway. There are alternative, more expensive machines that change the pressure; this may help but not for all users.

The fourth issue is the dry, stuffed up nose which can lead to other problems with the sinuses. Humidifying the incoming air can help with this problem.

Fifth is the feelings of claustrophobia and suffocation. These can result in panic attacks. And the higher the pressure required, the more these feelings can cause the patient to become intolerant to CPAP.

Leaking masks is the sixth issue. They can leave marks on the face for hours in the morning. Dry eyes, skin problems, and ulcerated lesions on the nose are common. Facial hair is a major reason for a leaking mask for men.

Number seven on the list is the problem of difficulty falling asleep with this pressurized air blowing into the airway. It is just very hard to get used to. And this also is a problem if one wakes up during the night to go to the bathroom and tries to get back to sleep.

Eighth is the dry mouth. The tongue sticks to the roof of the mouth.

Ninth is the removal of the mask during the night without knowing that you did it. The patient wakes up with the mask on the floor and may have been without it for hours. This is very dangerous.

This leads us to number ten. This is the noise from the CPAP machine as well as air leaks around the mask. This irritates both the patient and the bed partner. Some bed partners lose as much as 1-2 hours of sleep each night because of this issue resulting in a sleep disorder for them as well.

These are the top 10 listed by Mayo Clinic but there are still big problems. Cleaning the mask and hose is one of those big problems. Studies have shown that after cleaning the machine, hose, and mask as prescribed by the supplier, there is still a biofilm on the inside of the hose and mask. Fungus and staph have been cultured from the surfaces of “cleaned” hoses and masks! (Click on the “CPAP” button on the homepage of my website to see photos of this contamination. www.NwSleepDoc.com) Of course, this is dangerous since pressurized air can force these into the airway.

This biofilm cannot be removed by merely rinsing with a solution of any kind; it has to be removed physically which is difficult with a corrugated hose that is several feet long!

There is a comfortable alternative to the CPAP. Oral appliances placed by a dentist trained in oral appliance therapy have been used effectively for decades to eliminate or reduce obstructive sleep apnea. Some CPAP users still feel tired during the day or wake up unrefreshed. This is because CPAP may cause a lot of sleep disruption that the oral appliance doesn’t cause. Breathing with a CPAP is unnatural while breathing with an oral appliance is natural.

If you are a camper, backpacker, hunter, etc. and are having trouble finding a way to keep your CPAP going during the night, you should look into an oral appliance as the possible solution to the problem. One bad night’s sleep can ruin a camping or hunting trip.

• • •

Dr. Donald Johnson founded Northwest Treatment Center for Snoring & Sleep Apnea in Coeur d’Alene to help patients stop their snoring and live free with no limits! Obstructive sleep apnea is usually able to be treated with a small oral appliance. Dr. Johnson’s office is at 114 W. Neider Ave., near Costco. The website for more information is www.NWSleepDoc.com and the office phone is 208-667-4551. Schedule a free consultation appointment today!

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