Why is CPAP so effective in treating sleep apnea?

This question was asked in Mayfield, New York on .
I want to help understand how CPAP will help with my sleep apnea before I invest myself in the treatment. Can anyone help?

Doctors Answers (2)

Jeannine Louise Gingras, MD
Answered on: 5/3/2013 1

Sleep apnea is a collapse of your airway. Think of CPAP and your airway as blowing up a balloon. CPAP delivers air into your airway preventing collapse. The air column acts as a pneumatic stint. A simple mechanical concept that works extremely well.

J. Douglas Hudson, MD, DABSM
Answered on: 5/3/2013 1

CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) sends air into the pharynx behind and below the level of the tongue which produces an air splint preventing the tongue and soft palate from collapsing in order to keep the airway open and prevent cessation of breathing (apnea). It was invented around 1980 by a Dr. Sullivan in Australia. As I understand, the first CPAP used an oxygen mask connected to the end of a vacuum cleaner. Some CPAP machines are set at a pressure which never allows the airway to even start collapsing while others are automatic and respond when the airway begins to close. The automatic devices are very sophisticated and can sense when your airway is about to close off and increase the pressure needed to prevent apnea. CPAP therapy is the gold standard of treatment in 2013 but there are other devices in clinical trials which may someday replace CPAP therapy for some patients. This would include a device which is implanted at the base of the tongue which responds to the closing of the airway and pushes the tongue out of the way preventing apnea. These will not likely be on the market for several years. CPAP therapy can prevent high blood pressure, daytime sleepiness, night time urination, reduces elevated blood sugars and in the long run reduces strokes and heart attacks.