CPAP involves the delivery of air (not oxygen) under pressure to the pharynx. This pressure acts as an air splint, holding the airway open and preventing the partial or complete collapse that is the main event in OSA. Usually this is delivered through a mask that fits over the nose or nose and mouth. In almost all cases this eliminates the signs and symptoms of OSA as well as the snoring. Most patients get relief quickly, some the first night they use it. In others it may take longer to adapt to using the machine.
CPAP was first used in Australia in 1981. The major difficulty then, and now, was devising a mask to fit comfortably but snugly over the nose. Since the first masks a great deal of research has gone in to finding comfortable masks. There are now a variety of masks of different designs and different materials. Most still fit over the nose but some are designed to deliver air into the nostrils using ‘nasal pillows’. These are particularly helpful if you have any degree of claustrophobia and are very lightweight and quiet. Because some patients cannot adapt to nasal breathing and need to breathe through the mouth, masks that fit over both the nose and mouth are also available, these are known as full face masks. CPAP is considered the single most successful treatment for OSA.