I started using the CPAP about a week ago and it's been giving me headaches and putting pressure on my ears. What's causing it and will it go away? Do I have to use something else to treat my sleep apnea?
Doctors Answers (4)
You should follow with the sleep physician. The heated humidifier is a good place to start. Evaluate if you think the water is warm enough during the night. As for the mask, make certain that you aren't securing it too tight. Many mask are made to allow the patient to achieve an affective seal without squeezing your head.
You need to talk to the sleep medicine doctor who prescribed your CPAP machine about your symptoms. The pressure may not be set properly.
This is not an uncommon issue. Individuals who use CPAP machines may also experience headaches and ear pressure in the morning when they awaken. When the CPAP machine is being used, some of the sinus cavities are blocked. This creates a situation where there is a pressure differential between each of the sinus cavities. These pressure differences can be felt as a sinus headache when an individual wakens in the morning but should resolve spontaneously and quickly. These can be treated using over the counter medications to open the sinus. Decongestants such as Sudafed or during allergy season a short course of anti-histamine such as Benadryl can be used. CPAP heated humidifiers can also open and maintain sinus systems. If you do not use a heated humidifier, I strongly suggest using one. If this does not correct the problem, do not delay a visit to your sleep doctor or ENT (they may prescribe inhalers or offer other solutions).
There are several causes for headaches when using CPAP. I must first assume that you did not have headaches prior to beginning CPAP therapy. One cause is that the straps are too tight or your scalp vessels are very sensitive and "over reacting" to the pressure. Another possible cause is that the pressure from the CPAP is too high. If you are on an auto- titrating CPAP this should not be an issue but many times patients are put on CPAP with a fixed pressure set to prevent apnea in the most extreme condition, but you don't need a pressure that high 90% of the night, and you are given too much air (and oxygen) which can result in headaches. Another possible cause is that your oxygen and carbon dioxide levels are not allowed to reach optimal levels. This may be improved if you are switched to a Bi-level machine. See your treating physician for the answer.