Most people with sleep apnea or other breathing
probably know all about CPAP,
which is a continuous positive airway
pressure machine that is designed to pump in a continuous stream of air
into a mask to allow the person's airway to remain open so that they
may breathe freely.
is most commonly used to treat obstructive
sleep apnea, a condition in which obstructions cause
breathing to stop for
short periods of time during sleep.
Yet most people have never heard of CPAP's brother, which
is primarily used to treat central
sleep apnea, as well as other
breathing problems. BiPAP is also used in some situations when a person
suffering from obstructive sleep apnea has other health issues that
make it difficult to use CPAP. More on that in a bit.
of the BiPAP Machine
BiPAP machine was designed off of the CPAP model in the late
1980's, but with one
major difference. The acronym stands for bi-level
positive airway pressure, which means that it delivers its
air not in
one continuous stream, but actually at two variable levels.
people refer to this machine as BiPAP, it's name is actually BPAP, as
the other acronym actually refers to a specific brand of
positive airways pressure machines designed and manufactured by the
The reason this machine was designed lies in one flaw of CPAP that
makes it unacceptable for people with certain breathing, neurological,
or muscular problems. The main problem with the CPAP machine is that
the air comes in at a
this may be great for
keeping the airway open while breathing in, it also means that the
person has to exert much
more force to breathe out, due to the air
coming in through the mask.
Some people who need the
use of a positive airway pressure machine to help them breathe find it
either difficult or even impossible to breathe out when using the CPAP
machine due to the force of the air. This can be due to many different
health problems that make it impossible to use CPAP.
The BiPAP machine is used in
these cases where a person has
difficulties breathing, and also used to treat central sleep
cause of central sleep apnea is usually some form of neurological or
central nervous system disorder that makes a person lose
the ability to
breathe for short periods of time.
Unlike obstructive sleep apnea, there are no blockages of the airway,
instead the brain simply loses the ability or forgets to breathe
the person wakes up and begins manually breathing. The machine helps to
combat central sleep apnea by taking care of both breathing in and out
Types of People Use BiPAP?
addition to those suffering from central sleep apnea, there are also
a number of people with obstructive sleep apnea that need to use this
machine instead of CPAP. This is typically in the case where a person
has some form of neuromuscular
condition that causes them to be unable
to properly breathe out using CPAP.
there are actually quite a few other conditions unrelated to any
form of sleep apnea that this machine can be used to treat. Many
different neuromuscular conditions that cause difficulties breathing,
especially when lying down, necessitate the use of this machine, even
when the person is not suffering from sleep apnea.
takes mild conditions accompanied by sleep apnea to make this machine
necessary, while without sleep apnea, it is only necessary in more
Other groups of people who regularly use this type of positive airway
pressure machine include those suffering from chronic breathing
problems, such as asthma, chronic bronchitis, chronic
pulmonary disease (lung disease), emphysema, atelactasis (a condition
where the air sacs in the bottom portion of the lung cannot inflate
that results after the lung partially or totally collapses), and even
This machine is especially useful for those breathing disorders and
other problems that lead to a build-up
of carbon dioxide in the blood
due to shallow or rapid breathing. The reason it is especially helpful
in these situations is that the variable pressure allows them to better
fully inhale and most importantly exhale.
these patients were to use
CPAP, they would not be able to properly exhale all of the carbon
dioxide from their lungs and it would continue to build up.
It is also used in hospital situations where a person would otherwise
need to be intubated (have a breathing tube inserted down their
throat), but cannot be due to other medical or physical problems.
You Need BiPAP?
your doctor will be able to determine if you are suffering from a
condition that makes the use of this type of breathing machine
necessary. The first test your doctor will normally perform will be a
of respiratory tests to determine your lung capacity and
how much force you need to exert to exhale.
sleep apnea might be a
possibility, you will also need to undergo
a sleep test to try and
determine if you are indeed suffering from sleep apnea, and if so,
whether it is obstructive or central.
If your doctor determines you do require the use of this machine, they
will put you in contact with a medical supply company that can help you
get all of the gear you'll need.
close attention to the mask you
choose, as this will go a long way in determining how comfortable and
easy to use the machine is.
a good fitting mask will also stay
place throughout the night, ensuring you get the breathing
need. While using this machine is by no means easy or comfortable, with
any luck, you will soon get used to it and decide it's well worth it to
allow you to breathe freely during the night.
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