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CPAP FAQ

CPAP FAQ

On this page, our respiratory therapists answer the most common and frequently asked questions patients have about CPAP machines.



Welcome to our blog about troubleshooting CPAP machines! On this page, our respiratory therapists answer the most common and frequently asked questions patients have about CPAP machines.

At the time of writing this blog post, Broadway Home Medical employs 3 respiratory therapists across both locations. We're hoping, if you have a question about your CPAP, you'll find your answer here.




Question 1:

I can't get my machine to turn on. Is this because it has no power?

Answer:

Be sure to check that the cord is plugged in. It should be plugged into the power converter. Lastly, make sure that the power cord is plugged into the back of the machine. We get a lot of calls about this and most of the time the cord hasn't been pushed in the port all the way. When plugging the cord into the machine, there should be what feels like a click when it is pushed in.

--Jeremy Watkins, Registered Respiratory Therapist



Question 2:

Will insurance pay for a machine and supplies?

Answer:

It depends on the insurance you have. You should call your insurance provider and ask them what is covered under your plan or check with your local Durable Medical Equipment (DME) provider and have them check your insurance. It is important to ask your insurance or DME provider, "What compliance guidelines do I have to meet so insurance will pay for my machine fully?" Some companies, especially Medicare, have guidelines that you have to meet in order for them to fully pay for your machine. All other DME providers should as well. We at Broadway Home Medical will make sure you know what guidelines you have to meet in order for insurance to fully pay for your machine and supplies.

--Jeremy Watkins, Registered Respiratory Therapist



Question 3:

How often should I change the water in my humidifier?

Answer:

This is really more of a question about how much you should fill your water chamber. In that case, the best answer is: you should only fill the water chamber with as much H2O as you would need to make it through the night. This allows most, if not all, of the water to evaporate throughout the night, which allows you to keep putting fresh water in each night. But because you are so tired and don’t wanna mess with filling up the tank every night, you can fill to the max fill line and as often as needed. Just make sure you don’t go over the max fill line to prevent water from getting into your machine, tubing, and on your face. The best water to use is distilled water as it is the cleanest, but tap water will work. If you're using tap water, more sediment will develop in the bottom of your chamber, requiring frequent cleaning.

*Regardless of how much water you put in, you should be washing your water chamber, tubing, and mask ONCE A WEEK with dish soap and warm water. This prevents sediment build up in the water chamber and prevents growth of harmful bacteria, viruses, and mold.

--Jeremy Watkins, Registered Respiratory Therapist



Question 4:

What if I continue to experience mask leakage during the night?

Answer:

This depends on the type of mask, where, and when the leak is occurring. You can figure this out pretty quickly. 

HOW LONG HAS IT BEEN SINCE YOU CHANGED EQUIPMENT?

Shortest answer, quickest fix. If your cushions or headgear are old and worn then it's time to get replacements. Most times a new cushion and or headgear fixes the problem without requiring you to tighten your mask. So, if you’ve had a CPAP for a while and you find yourself tightening your mask more and more, then its time for new equipment. 

MASK FIT

Most newer machines, and some older, have a feature in the options or settings of your machine called mask fit. To self-test your mask fitting, you’ll want to put your mask on, go into your options, and run this feature. This will turn the machine on a higher pressure and should tell you if you have too much leakage. You should be able to feel where it is leaking, which will then allow for you to tighten the part of the mask that is leaking. A good rule of thumb for tightening your mask is to tighten the lower strap if it is leaking towards the bottom, and the upper strap if the leak is higher on the mask, especially in your eye area. If your mask has only one strap then that is the only one you need to worry about. MAKE SURE YOU ONLY MAKE LITTLE ADJUSTMENTS WHEN TIGHTENING. Tightening your mask too tight will cause irritation and pressure sores on your face. If you are needing to tighten really tight to stop leaks, it's time to look into a different size or different mask. If you use the mask fit option on your machine with no leaks, or the mask is not leaking when you first put it on, you may be bumping the mask in the night with your hand or pillow, which may require tightening.

MASK TYPE

Nasal Cushion/Nasal Mask

If you have any type of nasal cushion/nasal pillow, simply running the mask fit option should allow you to test the fit of your mask. You also may need to switch the style or size of nasal mask/cushion to allow for a better fit. However, most of time, if you are waking up to really high pressures in the night, or your machine is telling you that there is too much leakage, then you are probably opening your mouth during the night. This is a common problem with any type of nasal mask.

If you are opening your mouth at night, this will allow all the air to come in your nose and escape out of your mouth. Your machine will recognize this as leak, which is why you are either waking up to high pressures or your machine is telling you that you have leak. There are two options to fix this issue: either use a chinstrap to keep your mouth closed at night, or switch to a full face mask, so it won’t matter if your mouth is open as it will be covered by the mask.

Full Face Mask

If you have a full face mask that continues to leak, use the mask fit option to tighten your mask appropriately. If it continues to leak, then you may need to switch to a different style of mask as your current one may not be suitable for your face. Size of the mask is also important when it comes to leak. Being both too big or too small is a problem. Fitting guides or templates can be used to fit yourself or you can go to your local CPAP provider to fit you. The other big issue with full face masks is high pressure which we will talk about next.

Pressure

If your machine is set at, or hitting really high pressures, getting a good seal can be difficult. Depending on the person, when you start hitting over a pressure of 15cmH20 on your machine it becomes increasingly more difficult to achieve a good seal. When all other options have been exhausted, it's time to talk to your doctor about the possibility of changing or limiting pressure. I say possibility because you may require higher pressures in order for the CPAP to be beneficial to you. But like I said, if you have high pressures and you’ve tried different masks, then talk to the doc and they’ll work with you.

But of course, the really easy thing to do is call us and we can fix it for you!

--Jeremy Watkins, Registered Respiratory Therapist



Question 5:

Can I purchase a machine, mask, or humidifier without a prescription?

Answer:

If you plan to bill your supplies to insurance, a prescription will be required by the company that dispenses your supplies. Be highly skeptical if the company is not asking for a prescription and other documents in order to bill your insurance. If you are just paying privately and don’t want to go through insurance then prescription may not be required depending on the piece of equipment you buy. Some suppliers, like us, offer a discount if a prescription is provided.

Machine

Most machine manufactures and suppliers require a prescription to buy, which is usually indicated on the box with a RX symbol, or "RX only." There are most likely some companies that don’t require a prescription, but that would also mean they aren’t FDA compliant. Most manufacturers and retail stores will tell you if a prescription is required to purchase a CPAP or BIPAP machine from them.

Mask

Again, most manufactures will put a Rx symbol on the label indicating a prescription requirement. This usually pertains to only full kits - a complete set up, which includes a cushion, frame, and headgear. Now there is a caveat - you can buy frame, headgear, and cushions separately without a prescription and put the mask together yourself.

Humidifier

Typically, you do not need a prescription to buy a humidifier separately. While there are some machines you can buy without a humidifier, most come with one built into the machine.

Water Chamber

Depending on the manufacturer and supplier, a prescription will be required and indicated by the Rx symbol on the label.

Tubing

Prescription not required

What does the prescription need to say?

Prescription needs to include: the supplies needed, pressure setting, diagnosis code, and the doctor's signature.

Example:

CPAP 4-20cmH2O and CPAP supplies

Dx: OSA

Signed: Dr. Breathe Good

Without these 3 things, the supplier will not accept the prescription.

--Jeremy Watkins, Registered Respiratory Therapist



Question 6:

Does a warranty come with my CPAP machine?

Answer:

Typically there is a 2 year warranty with any machine, but this depends on if the manufacturer offers one and for how long. If your machine breaks and is under warranty, contact the supplier you bought the it from.

--Jeremy Watkins, Registered Respiratory Therapist



Question 7:

Which CPAP mask will work with my machine?

Answer:

All masks are compatible with all machines. However, there is an issue when it comes to tubing. Standard tubing (non-heated,) should, in theory, fit on any machine. There may be some we have yet to see though, so don't quote me on that. 

--Jeremy Watkins, Registered Respiratory Therapist



Question 8:

What if my pressure seems too high?

Answer:

Sometimes, if your pressure seems too high, it may be because of a mask leak. Check for mask leakage and adjust your mask to minimize the leak. If that doesn't work, speak to your doctor about this issue, so they can determine if a lower pressure setting could be used effectively.

--Carla Dwire, Registered Respiratory Therapist



Question 9:

What happens if my machine is out of warranty and needs repairs?

Answer:

Ask your doctor for a prescription for repair or replacement of your CPAP or BIPAP. We will get you a loaner machine while yours is sent in for evaluation. The estimation for repair will determine if it will be repaired or replaced. We will bill your insurance and coverage will be determined by any deductible and coinsurance you owe.

--Carla Dwire, Registered Respiratory Therapist



Question 10:

How often do I need to get supplies for my CPAP?

Answer:

Changing your CPAP supplies will help minimize mask leak as well as be more comfortable. Insurance allows for CPAP supplies to be replaced on a regular basis. You can replace cushions and disposable filters monthly, frame and tubing every three months, and headgear, chinstraps, reusable filter and water chamber every six months.

--Carla Dwire, Registered Respiratory Therapist



Question 11:

My CPAP machine is making me bloated/gassy. Why?

Answer:

Because of the air pressure and positioning, you may swallow air while using CPAP or BIPAP. To help with this, you can sleep with slight elevation using a bed wedge or extra pillows. If this doesn't help to alleviate the problem, you may need to discuss this with your doctor and a pressure change may be helpful.

--Carla Dwire, Registered Respiratory Therapist



Question 12:

Do I need my CPAP while traveling or camping?

Answer:

Sometimes people do not want to travel with their CPAP. My recommendation is to take it anyway. Everyone wants their vacation to be fun and memorable, so a healthy, restful night's sleep is needed when exerting energy for activities, as well as the clarity to enjoy and remember their adventures. Camping without power can be a challenge but we offer travel CPAPs that can be privately purchased as well as backup batteries and even a solar charging matt.

--Carla Dwire, Registered Respiratory Therapist



CPAP machines can be confusing when they don't work. Fortunately, we have educated individuals employed at Broadway Home Medical to assist when your machine gives you trouble. These are just some of the frequent questions that our patients ask. If you have any questions that weren't answered here or would like to discuss a question more in depth with one of our respiratory therapists, come into one of our locations in Wichita, Kansas. We would love to help!



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