CPAP mask basically can be categorized into three main types;
- Nasal Pillow
- Nasal Mask
- Full Face Mask
Nasal pillow masks are the most popular masks amongst all the CPAP mask users due to its minimalistic design and small size. This mask rests on the upper lips while two soft nasal tubes are inserted into the patient's nostrils to blow pressurized air and the entire mask is secured by a strap that goes around the patient's head.
Pros of Nasal Pillows:
- It is small in size, lightweight and minimal design which can be used by patients who feel claustrophobic and cannot tolerate too much of material strapped onto their faces while they are asleep.
- It should be used by patients who like to wear it a while before they sleep and need to wear glasses as this mask does not have any material covering the nose bridge which means the patient can use glasses without any obstruction.
- As the material is minimum hence, the chances to get displaced are also less that is why this is appropriate for patients who toss and turn too much in their sleep.
- This mask is best to avoid air leakage as the air is directly blown inside the nostril. This also works best for patients who have a lot of facial hair which may cause leakage with other masks.
- If the patient likes to watch TV or read before sleep, then this mask is preferable as it does not obstruct the field of vision like other types of masks.
Cons of Nasal Pillows:
- If the patient needs high pressure, then this type of mask should be avoided as the air is directly blown inside nostril which may cause discomfort at high-pressure settings.
- If the patient is a mouth breather in sleep, then this mask is an absolute No-No as it will not solve the purpose. If you still want to use this type of mask, then you will also have to use a chin-strap but we strongly suggest you change the type of mask for a more comfortable sleep.
- High air pressure may cause nasal dryness and even nose bleeds in some cases, hence if that occurs then the patient needs to change the type of CPAP mask.
As the name itself suggests, this is a triangular-shaped mask designed such that it fits over the patient's nose covering the nose from the bridge down to the upper lip. This CPAP mask is also used by many patient's due to the wide range of sizes and fits available which makes it easy to use by every user;
Pros of Nasal Masks:
- As the pressure is not directly blown inside the nostril, this feels more natural.
- This is more preferable for the high-pressure setting than the nasal mask pillow.
- This comes in various styles and shapes which cover a wide range of facial structures.
- If you toss and turn a lot in your sleep or sleep on your side, then this mask is appropriate for you as it is securely kept in place by the suction of the mask.
Cons of Nasal Masks:
- Just like the nasal pillow, this mask is also not suitable for mouth breathers unless you use a chin-strap to keep your mouth closed.
- If the patient regularly experiences blockage of sinuses, allergies or cold then this mask type should be avoided.
- If the patient finds it difficult to breathe from the nose due to conditions such as a narrow nasal valve or a deviated septum, then this type of CPAP mask is not recommended.
- It should be avoided if the patient faces discomfort or irritation due to the pressure caused by the mask as it rests on the nose bridge.
Full Face CPAP Mask:
Full face CPAP mask covers both nose and the mouth with side straps and forehead straps to keep the mask in place. Some CPAP masks which adopt the hybrid design covers the mouth along with nasal tubes to fit into the patient's nostril like the nasal pillow CPAP mask.
Pros of CPAP Face Masks:
- If the patient is a mouth breather, then face mask is the right mask for them as it covers the nose as well as the mouth.
- If the patient suffers from frequent nasal obstructions or congestions due to cold and allergies, then this mask is appropriate for them to use.
- This mask works best if you need to set a high CPAP pressure as the pressure applied is less direct than with the other masks.
- This mask works best for patients who sleep on their back but if you move in your sleep then the straps help in holding the mask in place.
Cons of CPAP Face Masks:
- This mask is a big No-No for claustrophobic patients as it covers a large surface area of the face and the extra material and weight may make them feel uncomfortable.
- The surface area of the mask is large which means the chance of air-leakage is higher, some users also complain of leakage near the top of the mask causing dry eyes.
- This full-face mask makes it impossible to wear glasses, read or watch TV before you go to bed.
- If you have a habit of sleeping on your stomach, then this mask will make it difficult to do so due to the sheer bulkiness of it.
Other Considerations While Choosing a CPAP Mask:
- Choose a mask that is of your size and fits you right, try different CPAP masks to make sure that you choose the one in which you feel the most comfortable in. Do not hurry, take your time to choose the right CPAP mask for you.
- If you move a lot in your sleep, get a CPAP mask that is properly secured so that it does not get displaced much when you move in sleep.
- If you are claustrophobic, bulky CPAP masks should be avoided.
- If you have skin irritation, opt for a mask that has minimum contact with the skin.
- If you prefer to watch TV or read before you go to bed or you wear glasses, choose a mask which does not obstruct your field of vision.
- If you breathe through your mouth, you may need a full-face mask or a nasal pillow/mask in conjunction with chinstraps.
- CPAP mask comes with different cushion types such as silicone, gel, cloth or foam, choose the one which you feel the most comfortable with.
- Make sure to choose a CPAP mask in which the cushion can be replaced, this will save the cost of replacing the entire mask when the cushion wears off.
Do not worry if you feel you have picked the wrong mask as it is difficult to judge in a few minutes if you are comfortable in a CPAP mask or not and in a few nights you can be sure if you have purchased the right mask. Most reputed companies let you exchange masks within a few days from purchase, hence you can rest assured.
Finding the right mask is both daunting and frustrating as it takes time to find the perfect CPAP mask, but once you are able to choose the apt mask, you will experience benefits that will last a lifetime.