One of the most frequent complaints from CPAP users is air leaking from the mask. Many CPAP users give up on their therapy because they are unable to achieve a good and comfortable fit.
A poor fit is often the result of improper sizing. The initial fitting of a mask is best done in the presence of a sleep therapy clinician, ordering physician, or home medical equipment retailer specializing in CPAP equipment and supplies.
When first trying a CPAP mask, the user should place the mask on their own face, rather than having it placed for them. By covering the mask with the palm of the hand and applying gentle pressure, a seal is formed around the edge of the mask and the face. Once the seal is formed, the headgear may be tightened just enough to keep the CPAP mask in place, at the same time maintaining the seal. Detailed instructions for properly fitting and adjusting the CPAP mask are generally included in the CPAP mask packaging. It is not uncommon for the CPAP user to improperly place the mask on the face upside down, or tighten the headgear so tight that it causes indentation or bruising from the mask on the face. Needless to say, when that happens, the end result is less than optimal.
Some CPAP mask leaks are actually due to a buildup of oil on the mask from the face, or stretching out of the CPAP mask cushion or headgear due to extended use;
CPAP masks should be cleaned daily using warm water and a mild soap to remove facial oils that can cause CPAP mask slippage, and a resulting leak.
As CPAP cushions age, they lose their shape, making it difficult to get a good seal. In an effort to improve the seal, the CPAP user tightens and adjusts the headgear to the point that it changes the fit of the CPAP mask, causing a leak. CPAP cushions and headgears should be replaced when they no longer hold their original shape or elasticity.
Open mouths can also be the cause of CPAP mask leak. In this case, a chin strap may be used to keep the mouth in a closed position during CPAP mask use, or a better solution may be to be sized and fitted for a full face CPAP mask.
Today, there are a wide variety of CPAP masks, in all shapes, sizes, materials, and styles, from a number of manufacturers to meet every need. If you are not having success with the mask you are currently using, or have stopped using your CPAP mask altogether, contact your CPAP supplier and speak with their sleep specialist.