STOP THE LEAKS!
“This is so frustrating! air is leaking all over the place.”
We know, we know…..everyone hates air leaks. The leaks might wake you up or spray into your eye or just create an annoying, sometimes embarrassing, (gassy) noise. Fortunately there are tricks and tips to stopping these annoying leaks.
Mask leaks can be medically significant if large enough, but even small ones can be annoying. There are two types of leak: mask leak and mouth leaks. Its important to note that even if you don’t feel a leak, your doctor can still tell if there is a leak based on the machine download.
Do I have the right mask! – this should always be your first question. Your should ask yourself if the mask is the right type and right size. Remember, you have to compare your CPAP mask to a sport coat/dress. If you just order one off the internet—you just never know if the fit will be good. You should always talk to your DME (durable medical equipment) company or doctor about proper fitting. Beside nasal pillows, most mask do need proper fitting. Ideally this should be done with a specialized “ruler” (right). These rulers will help you ensure you have the right size mask.
Tighter is Usually Never Better – many people when they start having leak will do the most “logical” thing and try to tighten the mask. Unfortunately making the mask tighter is likely never the best ideal. Leaks can also worsen with incorrect adjustment of masks. Over-tightening the mask can lead to further leaks and therefore should be avoided. Most masks need space to inflate and room to be correctly positioned on your face. Instead of tightening, first try to pull the mask away from your face just enough for it fill with air. Next gently place the mask back down on your face and make any needed adjustments to the headgear or straps. The mask should fit comfortably, not tightly. Wearing you mask too tight can lead to creases in your skin or skin irritation.
Need new equipment? You should always check if you are due for a new mask. You should never allow your mask to get to the point that its worn out and needs replacement. Like any other piece of clothing or garment, your mask cushion becomes worn out with time. There is really no exact set time for replacement because the life of a mask cushion depends on various factors such as how much you use it, the oils from your skin, and how often you clean it. Its important to inspect your mask frequently for wear and tear. The user guide supplied with your mask contains guidelines to help you inspect, assess and replace your supplies. Each mask is different so for exact timing it’s important to reference your mask user guide for specific details. Rule of thumb: if you’ve had the same mask for 6 months, its likely time to get a new one!
Lumber Jack! Beards are back in style and the lumber jack look is commonplace. Since statistically most CPAP users are male, industry heads are hesitant to tell men that there is no hope and they have to shave their facial hair in order to wear their CPAP mask. Ill be honest, it is difficulty, but I will not say that there is little hope for CPAP mask leaks in people with facial hair. Usually the leak is under or around the lower part of the nose or the chin. If you have facial hair maybe a full face mask is not the right choice for you. There are CPAP mask called nasal pillows that will rest inside the nares and might make it easier for you if you have facial hair. There are many nasal pillows out there so again finding the right one takes a little time. Most people can wear nasal pillows however if you have very high CPAP pressure then it may be difficulty for you to tolerate the pressure. Also, if you have never used nasal pillows then you have to be prepared for mouth leaks, which is our next topic. Well what if I switch but now im having mouth leaks.
Having a mouth leak is common. Some people are just mouth breathers and have difficulty keeping their mouth closed at night. When you have nasal pillows then this can make the problem worse. The mouth leak appears when you sleep with your mouth open, and an important quantity of air pressure exits instead of entering in your lungs. This can leak to dry mouth. One trick to keeping you mouth closed is trying to train your tongue to be in the “clicking” position. Keep your tongue on the roof of your mouth in the position that it would be immediately before clicking your tongue. With enough practice, this alone can help the mouth leaks. If this does not work, a chin strap may be needed. Using a chin strap with you positive airway pressure will help you keep your mouth closed and subsequently keep the pressure in your airways and not out your mouth.
We all know that leaks are important. Significant CPAP mask or mouth leaks may affect the CPAP’s algorithms from properly responding to whatever is going on. But obviously, significant leak may disturb you or you bed partner. If you already have a CPAP mask, and you’re struggling to eliminate the air leaks don’t get discouraged. Talk to your doctor and DME company, there is usually a solution.
Disclaimer – this is not meant to be medical advise. Consult your doctor for any CPAP changes.