The Best CPAP Mask: Pros and Cons of 3 Different Styles

For newly diagnosed sleep apnea patients, using CPAP for the first time can be challenging, made even worse if you select a mask that doesn't fit.

Your success with using CPAP relies on how well your new CPAP mask fits. Before you choose your first one, here's an overview of the types available and the pros and cons for each type.

They include nasal pillows, nasal mask, and oronasal (or full-face) mask.


Nasal pillows

This is the smallest form of CPAP mask. The soft cushions of nasal pillows rest right at the opening to the nostrils; they are held in place by small, soft headgear. The air pressure generated by the CPAP machine enters your airway through these cushions.

Advantages of nasal pillows include:

Disadvantages of nasal pillows include:

For this last concern, a chin support may be added to the headgear to help address oral breathing.

Nasal mask 

This is the most common form of CPAP mask. While not as small as nasal pillows, the nasal mask is still fairly small. The mask rests over the nose and against the cheeks and upper lip. It is held in place with headgear that attaches to the mask at the forehead and sides of the face. The CPAP machine sends pressurized air into the mask, which surrounds your nose before you inhale it. 

Advantages of using a nasal mask include: 

Disadvantages of using a nasal mask include:

As with nasal pillows, a chin support may be added to the headgear of a nasal mask to help address oral breathing.

Oronasal or full-face mask 

The largest CPAP mask currently being used is the oronasal or full-face mask. The full-face mask resembles the nasal mask, but it is long enough to cover both your mouth and nose. It's also held in place with the same style of headgear used for nasal masks. Instead of pressurized air circling your nose, it traps a pocket of pressurized air that both the nose and mouth can inhale.

Advantages of using a full-face mask include:

Disadvantages to using a full-face mask include:

To best prepare for your visit at the sleep center to select a CPAP mask, keep these considerations in mind, try on as many as are available to you, and remember that the success of your therapy will ride on the comfort level of the mask you choose.

But don't worry if, after a couple of weeks, you find the mask you've chosen isn't working for you. Contact your sleep specialist and let them know. After a few weeks of user experience, you will have a better idea what you need.

You may also consider visiting a sleep apnea support group to learn some tips from real-world users for how to make your current CPAP mask work for you.

Whatever you decide, a quick followup with your sleep medicine team should result in finding a mask that best suits you. 

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