CPAP can be a life-changing therapy, but it can cause problems that make it difficult to maintain comfortable and effective treatment.
One of the most common side-effects is skin irritation or damage where the mask sits on the face. Here we explain the three most frequent causes of this problem, and how to resolve them.
1 - BACTERIA
The most common cause of skin irritation is bacteria. The silicone in the CPAP mask cushion gradually gets worn away by skin oils, creating microscopic pockets in the surface of the cushion that bacteria can thrive in.
If you find that the red marks start occurring after a few weeks of using a mask, bacteria is almost certainly the cause. So the solution is simple; daily mask cleaning should keep bacteria to a minimum. Using a pack of CPAP Mask Wipes makes it simple to keep your mask clean.
However, while this will remove the majority of dirt and bacteria, some will still remain in the pockets described above; particularly as the mask gets older and the pockets increase in size and number. Even a visibly clean mask can be home to thousands of bacteria, and the red marks can remain despite thorough cleaning.
The only way to kill bacteria entirely is to sanitise the equipment, using a device such as the SoClean 2 CPAP Sanitiser. This kills bacteria, even those tucked away out of reach of even the most thorough cleaning. If bacteria is causing your skin irritation, SoClean should provide an immediate improvement in red marks.
At £239, the SoClean is not a cheap fix. However it does have a 30-day money back guarantee so you can see if it solves the problem for you. Under 1% of customers have returned theirs, so the chances of finding it beneficial are very high. If you're in the 99%, it becomes an excellent long-term investment. CPAP.co.uk has the UK's lowest price on the SoClean.
2 - SILICONE ALLERGY
Red marks caused by bacteria tend to develop over time. If your red marks appeared within the first one or two uses of a new mask, an allergy to silicone is more likely to be the problem. This problem is slightly trickier to solve, as nearly all CPAP masks use silicone. Even gel masks have a fine silicone membrane. However, the SleepWeaver range of CPAP mask are made from fabric, making them most "skin friendly" masks on the market.
Another option is to use a mask liner, such as RemZzzs (shown right). These are cotton liners that sit between the mask and your face, creating a barrier that prevent direct contact with the silicone. These are one of the most popular accessories provided on CPAP.co.uk with consistently great reviews, perhaps unsurprising considering how common silicone allergies are. A sample pack costs just £6.99, so you can quickly and affordably find out if this option is beneficial for you here.
3 - POOR-FITTING MASK
Another common cause of red masks is an ill-fitting CPAP mask. Sometimes leaks can cause patients to tightly strap the mask to their face, causing red marks and skin breakage.
One option is to loosen the mask. It sounds counter-intuitive, but sometimes a looser fit allows the mask space to adjust to suit. Also, fit the mask while lying down as gravity changes the shape of your face. A good fit upright does not always translate to a good fit lying down.
If you are simply unable to get a good fit, you can try a different shape mask that avoid the area that you are experiencing fitting problems. For example, full-face masks often leak and cause skin damage around the nasal bridge. An under-nose mask, such as the Resmed AirFit F30 (left), can avoid this problematic area entirely.
You could also try a different mask material. Sleepnet AirGel masks, for example, use an incredibly pliable gel in the cushion. This allows it to spread the pressure more evenly across your face, rather than have it concentrated in one or two spots. Their newest mask is the Ascend Full Face (right), which you can find out about here. It has a "Guaranteed Fit", meaning you can return it for a refund if it doesn't work for you. It your current mask isn't fitting well, the Ascend Full Face is a risk-free option. A nasal version can be found here.
Additionally, the RemZzzs liners mentioned about can also help to reduce leaks; allowing for the headgear to be set a little looser and reducing the stress on your skin.
We're here to help
If none of the above solve the problem for you, please contact us
with more information about your issues, such as the problem you are experiencing and the mask you are using, and we can see what we can do to help.