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After Being Diagnosed

Once your doctor has diagnosed you with sleep apnea, different means of treatment will be discussed. More than likely you will be given a prescription for a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine. With this machine, you will breathe pressurized air through (in most cases) a nasal mask to keep your airways open while sleeping.

To determine the pressure needed to accomplish this, you may need to undergo another sleep study using a CPAP device and a nasal mask. You will be fitted with a mask, headgear and CPAP machine. In many cases a humidifier also will be prescribed, and in some instances, heated humidification systems may be in order.

Not all CPAP machines are alike. Some are quieter than others; some adjust automatically for different altitudes, and some easily switch for different currents. Your lifestyle should help determine which will work best for you.

Mask comfort is decided by the contours of your face, size, the material with which the mask is made, the way it connects to the hose and headgear, and, most importantly, how you feel. Do not accept a mask that is uncomfortable. Ask questions. Ask to see and try masks while lying down. What fits sitting in a chair does not always adhere as well when lying down. Also, ask to try the mask while you have the CPAP machine on at your prescribed pressure. Do this while lying down in your favorite sleeping position. Contact your sleep medicine specialist if after a few nights you still are unable to sleep or develop nasal congestion, mask leak, sores or pain.

Once you have all of the equipment, you'll need to set it up in your bedroom. Ask the therapist to show you how. Ask how to clean your hose and mask and how often. If your machine has filters, make sure you have replacements and ask how often they need to be cleaned or changed.

The benefits of using a CPAP machine are determined by how well and how often you use it. There will be an adjustment period. If you have difficulty adjusting to using the CPAP machine, talk to your doctor. If you still have difficulties, there are alternative therapies that may be available to you. Surgery or the use of dental appliances may be considered in some cases. Consult your doctor before making any final treatment decisions.