While CPAP is the gold standard treatment for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), it’s not the best option for all people. Physical discomfort is a big issue for some, if they can’t get accustomed to wearing the mask.
The good news is that things are changing thanks to a mask-less alternative known as a "micro" CPAP.
Let’s first examine the basic structure and function of a traditional CPAP machine, to understand the difference with the micro/maskless CPAP.
How Does a Typical CPAP Machine Function?
Standard CPAP machines are designed around their ability to provide the user with a supply of pressurized air. Core components include the motor, the pumping mechanics, a flexible plastic tube, and a mask that is fitted over the nose and/or the mouth. The air will be delivered via this tube.
Note that there are also several CPAP variants that may be selected in accordance with the symptoms as well as personal tastes.
For instance, an alternative known as a BiPAP will adjust the air pressure when inhaling and exhaling. A model known as an APAP (automatic positive airway pressure) automatically monitors one's breathing and makes adjustments without the need for any type of manual input.
However, even this cutting-edge technology is not without its potential flaws. One common complaint is that some individuals find the hose and mask apparatus rather bothersome. As a result, they have difficulty falling and remaining asleep.
Some engineers have therefore been experimenting with a device referred to as a "micro" CPAP.
Let's now take a closer look at how these units operate -- and their place as a viable alternative to the standard model.
What are the Principles Behind Mask-Less Variants?
Micro CPAPs have been called "mask-less" devices. Micro units are less cumbersome, as they do not contain any type of hose or mask. Instead, the device consists of two nose buds that deliver the airflow, which is automatically adjusted. These devices are meant for patients who are at lower CPAP pressures normally below 8 cm H2O. Patients requiring a device with higher pressures will need to continue to use a more traditional type of CPAP device.
Micro CPAPs are also quite unique in terms of the technology. As opposed to requiring a standalone pumping machine, they are fitted with interior elements known as "micro blowers” that serve as an air intake. This air is then slightly pressurized and sent to the airways as the user breathes.
The micro CPAP is powered by a series of small rechargeable batteries. While this type of CPAP is still under development, some industry professionals claim that the batteries can provide eight hours of continuous power before they will need to be recharged in a docking station.
In addition to the comfort, there are more benefits:
- Fewer parts to clean, which simplifies the maintenance process.
- Much quieter than CPAP, potentially leading to fewer audible disruptions.
- Help to eliminate snoring.
The FDA has not yet approved the micro CPAP. The vetting process can take a great deal of time in order to confirm that these innovative devices do not pose any type of health risks. As a result, the benefits mentioned above have yet to be fully verified.
Is Micro CPAP the Wave of the Future?
The first step will involve FDA approval. Until then, standard CPAP therapy is still recommended for most effective treatment of obstructive sleep apnea. Nasal masks have made standard CPAP much more comfortable for many people.