Sleep apnea is a common affliction in the United States, with perhaps 18 million people suffering from the disorder, that can have serious effects when left untreated. Individuals with sleep apnea have frequent points during their sleep cycle in which their breathing pauses. There are three types of sleep apnea, with one caused by an obstruction in the upper airway, another by a signaling failure in the brain, and the last a result of a mixture of the two. No matter which type a person has, treatment is necessary, as going without treatment makes a person with sleep apnea four times more likely to have a stroke and three times more likely to develop heart disease. Luckily, treatment for this disorder is generally non-invasive, often consisting of a CPAP, or the less widely known BiPAP, machines.
BiPAP vs CPAP
Most patients who use a breathing machine for the treatment of sleep apnea find sufficient relief from their symptoms using a CPAP, or continuous positive airway pressure, machine. By providing a steady stream of pressurized air, CPAP machines prevent the apnea events.
As the name suggests, CPAP machines are set at a fixed pressure where they either are set at all times or that they build to slowly each night and then maintain throughout the patient?s sleep cycle. The exact level of pressure is determined by a doctor after performing a sleep study to determine what is needed for a patient.
While the functionality of a CPAP is beneficial, some patients do experience difficulty exhaling against the level of pressure their doctor determines to be necessary for their case. For those individuals, a BiPAP mask, or a Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure machine, may be used instead. The primary difference between a CPAP mask and a BiPAP mask is that while the CPAP provides one level of pressure, the BiPAP mask has two. The first level is the prescribed pressure as recommended by the doctor for inhalation, while the second is a lower setting, allowing for comfortable exhalation.
For those patients that require a low level of continuous pressure, BiPAP machines likely will never be a concern in their sleep apnea treatment. However, in the case where the pressure needed makes breathing uncomfortable, a BiPAP machine might encourage a patient to remain faithful to their sleep apnea treatment, and that could save their life someday.