How To Buy A CPAP Machine - Buyer's Guide
As experts in our field, we consider it a privilege to help educate and offer support to those who suffer from sleep apnea. This guide is designed to help familiarize you with the ins and outs of CPAP machines. We’ll explain some of the common jargon and help you understand some of the finer details. We’ll cover the various kinds of CPAP machines, common terminology, prescription requirements, and available data reporting. Our hope is that this guide will help you grasp these concepts and give you confidence in making informed decisions regarding your treatment, so you can purchase the best possible CPAP machine for you. And, as always, feel free to give us a call or send us an email. Our knowledgeable, clinical staff are equipped to answer your specific questions in fuller detail.
What Are the Different Types of CPAP Machines?
There are three basic types of CPAP machines: CPAP, APAP and BiPAP machines. Depending on your form of sleep apnea, your doctor will recommend one of these three types of machines. Within each of these categories, there are differing options such as travel sizing, humidification, and even apps for your phone. Regardless of the machine you choose, every CPAP mask will be compatible with it. The connections on the machine and tubing are a standard 22mm connections which fits directly to any CPAP mask connection. Here’s a little more detail on each type of machine.
- CPAP Machines - CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. These machines deliver pressurized air at a consistent rate. The gentle pressure keeps the airway open, helping patients who normally experience cessations in their breathing to breathe continuously. These machines are set to a prescribed pressure setting that remains the same throughout the course of the night. CPAP machines have a "Ramp" feature option which starts the pressure off at a lower setting and slowly “ramps” up to the prescribed pressure. This is especially helpful for people who are new to CPAP therapy to make it more comfortable as they get used to the machine.
- APAP Machines - Automatic Positive Airway Pressure machines differ from CPAP machines in that they deliver differing air pressure depending on the need of the patient throughout the night. These more complex machines are able to read the amount of pressure that a patient needs and adjust the setting automatically. This process is often referred to as auto-titration. Many people find this helpful, as a person’s pressure needs change in minor ways throughout the night and often change throughout the his or her lifetime. The APAP machine records this data which is helpful to the doctor to determine if adjustments are needed to the patients sleep therapy.
- BiPAP Machines - Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure machines deliver two levels of alternating pressure. A patient requiring this type of machine will be prescribed two pressure settings by their doctor: an IPAP (inspiratory positive airway pressure) setting for inhalation and a EPAP (expiratory positive airway pressure) setting for exhalation. Often these machines are helpful to people who require a higher-pressure setting. Sometimes people at a higher setting have difficulty or experience discomfort exhaling against the pressure. The BiPAP machine alleviates this problem by delivering a higher pressure for inhalation and a lower pressure for exhalation. BiPAP machines are also a great solution for those with COPD (chronic lung disease).
Do I Need a Prescription to Buy a CPAP Machine?
CPAP machines are considered a type II medical device by the FDA and require a prescription. If you don't have a copy of your prescription, we can help. Please contact us, and we’d be happy to call your doctor, and have it sent to us. Prescriptions can be faxed to us at 1-866-293-9890, or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. We accept scanned copies, photocopies, and even pictures from your cell phone or camera. For more details check out our simple Prescription Policy.
Reasons to Get a Prescription
While it may seem like a lot of work, getting a prescription is a good idea for a few important reasons.
- Knowing Your Unique Needs - While you may feel certain that you have sleep apnea, it’s critical to have it properly diagnosed by a doctor. Each person is different, and it takes a sleep study (either at home or at a sleep clinic) in order to properly diagnose your condition and find the right solutions for you. There are three types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea and complex sleep apnea (which is a combination of both). Properly diagnosing your type and severity of sleep apnea is crucial to getting the right treatment. Because it’s likely that your sleep apnea will change over time, monitoring your specific progress and needs requires a competent sleep specialist. So, while it may take some extra effort on the front end, getting a proper diagnosis is critical to proper treatment and maintenance.
- Pressure Settings - Having the right pressure settings is critical to your success. And, your settings will most likely change over time. A sleep specialist can monitor your needs and prescribe the best settings. They will also monitor your progress and recommend changes as needed.
- Insurance Coverage - Finally, there’s the practical issue of insurance. Your insurance won’t cover your costs without a prescription.
CPAP Machine Terminology
- Leak Compensation - Some CPAP machines come with a leak compensation feature. This feature comes in handy when your mask isn’t on as securely as it should be, causing a small leak. CPAP machines with this feature will compensate for small leaks that might be caused by movement or pressure on the mask. The machine determines the pressure change and always adjusts the pressure to keep it at the prescribed setting.
- Mask On/Off Alert - If you are someone who involuntarily pulls your mask off while you sleep, you may want to consider a CPAP machine with this feature. A small beep, or a message on the LCD will alert you if your mask is off.
- Altitude Adjustment - The altitude you live in can cause changes to the air pressure being delivered. Most CPAP machines either automatically adjust for high altitudes or have a manual switch.
- Heated Tubing - A small heating element is placed in the tubing to keep the air at a constant temperature. This helps prevent condensation in the tubing or "rain-out". Only two manufacturers have this feature: ResMed and Fisher & Paykel.
- Voltage Selection - Most machines have the ability to switch from standard US voltages to international voltages. If you travel internationally, you will want to check for this feature. Some machines will switch over automatically and others have a manual switch.
- Ramp - If you require a higher-pressure setting, you may want to consider a CPAP machine with the ramp feature. Some patients find the higher pressure setting uncomfortable at first, but don’t mind it if they are eased into it. This feature allows you to set a time for the machine to gradually reach full pressure. This means you can set your machine to reach full pressure once you’re already sleeping or while you’re watching television. Ramp times can usually be set between zero and forty-five minutes.
- Warranties - All CPAP machines and humidifiers carry at least a 2-year warranty. And, we stand by the quality of all the devices we sell. So, we handle every warranty claim for you. If you have any problems with your machine, please call us. We’re happy to help!
What to Know About Data Recording and Compliance Reporting
Many of our CPAP machines offer data recording. Different machines offer differing types of data recording, from simple usage time to very detailed recording of apnea events. Here are some answers to common data monitoring questions.
- How Do I Know If I Need This Feature? - Your doctor will tell you to get a machine with this feature. Often your doctor will have specific data that he or she would like to monitor.
- How Do I Get My data? - Some manufacturers offer patients the ability to see their data via software or through a website. Others will only send data to the doctor. Each manufacturer is different.
- How Do I Know Which Machine to Choose? - All our product descriptions will note whether a machine can record data. But, the best way to sort through your data requirements is just to give our knowledgeable staff a call (1-888-494-4647). If your doctor has requested data monitoring, we want to ensure that you’re getting the right machine.
Purchasing Your CPAP Machine
On a final note, wherever you purchase your machine, please take the following suggestions to heart so you can be sure that you get a good machine from a reputable retailer. Because this will be an ongoing relationship, here are some things to keep in mind when choosing your retailer.
- Choose a Reputable/Experienced Dealer - There are places on the internet where you can buy individual parts or used machines for less. Remember that when you buy a CPAP machine, you’re going to need more parts and service over time. Choose a seller who has been around a while and has a good reputation for customer service over time.
- Education Is Essential - Be sure to pick a vendor who is very familiar with the products they sell. They should both be educated themselves and willing to help educate you on their products. You need someone who can answer your specific questions in an understandable and courteous manner.
- There's No Substitute for Good Support - Not only do you need answers to your original questions, but the likelihood is that you will have more questions when it comes time to replace filters or mask parts. Or, what if you have a problem with your machine? A good retailer should be willing to help you sort it out, or to help you with your warranty. Just remember that this is an ongoing relationship. So, be sure that you’re choosing a vendor who is going to be consistent, courteous, and knowledgeable.
We hope this article has helped clear up some questions you may have regarding CPAP machines. But, please feel free to contact us, or call, with any further questions. The goal of The CPAP People is to offer the best products AND the best service to those who suffer from sleep apnea.
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