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Annoyed by CPAP mask leaks? Try these 6 fixes

Mary Junkin, PA-C

One of the rockier parts of CPAP therapy—used to treat obstructive sleep apnea—is the mask leaks.  Mask leaks can be noisy and disruptive for both you and your partner. They can also cause dry eye and dry mouth. Here are some tips for trouble shooting mask leaks:

  1. Be sure to apply the mask correctly. Most masks will come with an instruction sheet. You can also call your durable medical equipment provider to help you.
  2. Check the age of your mask parts. CPAP equipment wears out with daily use. If you have not replaced your cushion in the past two months or your headgear in the past six months, get new equipment. Call your durable medical equipment provider for a replacement.
  3. Clean your cushion daily. Remove all skin oil and lotions from the cushion by washing it every morning with soap and water after you wake up. Water-based skin wipes (Hand wipes, baby wipes, or CPAP wipes) are an alternative to soap and water, but sometimes the residue left on the cushion can cause a rash. Wash your face prior to applying your mask. This helps the mask form a better seal on your face.
  4. Tighten the straps of your headgear. Over time, headgear stretches out and can cause mask loosening. Your mask should fit snugly. It should not cause pain, headaches, or marks on your face for longer than two hours after you wake up.
  5. Try a cloth CPAP cushion cover or mask liners. Sometimes this can resolve small leaks that disrupt your sleep. These are available online through Amazon, com, and cpap.com.
  6. Get a mask fitting. If all else fails, call your durable medical equipment provider for a fitting. You may need a different model of mask.

Other factors can increase the risk of mask leaks. Full face masks leak more frequently than nasal models. Higher pressure settings are more likely to cause masks to break their seal than lower pressure settings.

Remember, not everything that sounds like a leak is a leak. Every mask has an exhaled air port to release pressure. It’s usually located near where your hose attaches to the mask. This is normal and not a leak. Also, some masks will leak slightly no matter what you do. If the leak is minimal and not disrupting your sleep there is no need for intervention.

Mary Junkin is a physician assistant in Vancouver Clinic’s Sleep Medicine Department. She enjoys educating patients about their condition and counseling individuals adapting to using a CPAP machine.