CPAP masks intended for long-term home use should be fitted to your face. The American Sleep Apnea Association suggests you consider both size and fit, including mask width, length, and strap tightness. Poorly fitting masks may cause skin irritation or even an allergic reaction; however, there are no indications that these masks can help treat blotchy skin.
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“CPAP” stands for continuous positive airway pressure. According to the “Illustrated Manual of Nursing Practice,” a CPAP mask consists of a lightweight, flexible mask of rubber or silicone that covers your nose and mouth. You attach the mask to your head with straps that resemble orthodontic headgear. The mask’s oxygen tube connects to a ventilator, which supplies pressurized air for you to breathe. There’s also an “expiratory pressure valve” that releases the carbon dioxide you exhale.
CPAP masks can help people with respiratory distress syndrome, viral pneumonia and pulmonary edema. Hospital personnel may use a CPAP mask to wean a patient off a ventilator. The purpose of the mask is to apply continuous pressure to the airway, keeping it open and unobstructed. Smaller versions of CPAP masks, covering only your nose, are commonly prescribed for sleep apnea.
CPAP and Skin Irritation
Because the mask must fit tightly and create a seal over the face, skin irritation is a common and annoying side effect. There’s also a chance you may be allergic to the material your mask is made of. If your blotchy skin is part of an allergic reaction, you’ll need to buy a mask made with different materials. The American Sleep Apnea Association notes that masks can be made with synthetic rubber, vinyl, hard plastic or silicone.
CPAP Masks and Skin Care
The American Sleep Apnea Association notes that both dry skin and excess skin oil can keep your mask from forming an effective seal. Moisturizers and petroleum-based products can react with the part of the mask that touches your face; however, the ASAA suggests you look into specialty moisturizers designed for CPAP mask users. The “Illustrated Manual of Nursing Practice” recommends applying benzoin to the skin immediately beneath the edge of the mask to keep it from overdrying and cracking.
CPAP and Blotchy Skin
Because blotchy skin has a number of potential causes, you should consult your doctor for a diagnosis. The American Academy of Family Physicians notes that flushed skin may indicate rosacea, while red and blotchy skin could indicate a rash called erythema multiforme, often caused by a reaction to your medication. In rare cases, a patchy rash with a butterfly shape could indicate a systemic condition such as lupus. You should only try to treat patchy skin with a CPAP mask if directed to do so by your physician.