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How to choose a CPAP Mask

Choosing the right CPAP mask can significantly improve comfort

Choosing a CPAP mask can look daunting - particularly given how many are available. CPAP.co.uk has dozens of masks to choose from, so there is plenty of choice. But do you choose a CPAP mask? We'll help you narrow down those options and help ensure you get the right mask for you.

1) What masks are compatible with your existing machine?

A bit of a trick question as the answer is "all of them". However, many are not aware that CPAP machines and masks are cross-compatible. For example, you can easily use a Philips mask with your ResMed machine. Therefore you are free to choose any mask you feel will be suitable, knowing it will fit your machine. Many wrongly believe you must match the mask to the machine, but this is not the case.

The only exception is the ResMed AirMini, where ResMed have seemingly used their dominant position in the market to restrict compatibility to three of their masks only (the AirFit F20, N20 and P10). However currently no other machines (including other ResMed machines) have had their compatibility restricted in this way.

2) How do you breathe?

If you breathe through your nose, then you could use a Nasal Cushion or Nasal Pillows Mask. Nasal Cushion masks sits around your nose, Nasal Pillows use two small cones that sit over the nostrils. Nasal Cushion are the better all-rounder, but Nasal Pillows can benefit those who experience skin problems or leakage issues because of their smaller contact area.

The main trade-off with the Nasal Pillows option is that they can become uncomfortable at higher pressures; so for most nasal breathers, Nasal Cushion would be the first-choice. Around 80% of nasal masks sold through CPAP.co.uk are Nasal Cushion, and 20% Nasal Pillow, so if you're choosing a nasal mask for the first time we would suggest trying a cushion mask first.

If you breathe through your nose but your mouth drops open, then you could consider using a chin strap to prevent that from happening.

If you breathe through your mouth, or sleep with your mouth open, then a Full Face Mask would be the way forward. With this type, you benefit from the CPAP pressure whether you breathe through your nose or mouth. If you are unsure how you breathe, then it is best to opt for a Full Face Mask.

If you did choose a nasal mask, we would recommend having a full face mask as a backup in case you get a cold or other nasal or sinus issues which block your nasal passages.

3) Which type of material to go for?

Almost all CPAP masks will have a cushion that will either be silicone or gel. The silicone cushions are usually clear, and these are the standard type of cushion. The gel cushions are usually blue (but something clear or use a different colour) and are generally considered to be more comfortable as they are softer and more adaptable. The gel cushion masks are usually a bit more expensive than their silicone equivalent (they have a premium of around £15 in most cases), so it is up to you as to whether this is a valuable upgrade.

Silicone cushion technology has evolved considerable in the last decade. Fewer gel masks are being produced as a result. For example, neither ResMed's current AirFit range or the DreamWear range from Philips have any gel cushions - with the one exception of the DreamWear Nasal Pillows mask, which has gel pillows.

The only other option is the unique SleepWeaver range from Circadiance. These are made of fabric. This makes it considerably more comfortable than regular masks, so it is certainly worth having a look at.

4) Mask Fit Insurance

Trying a new CPAP mask for the first time is a step into the unknown; what works for one patient does not always work for the next. Therefore CPAP.co.uk allows most CPAP masks to be purchased with Mask-Fit Insurance. For a small premium, this allows you to return a mask within 30 days should it prove to be unsuitable. This is a valuable option whenever you try a new mask for the first time.

Mask-Fit Insurance was brought it in so that patients didn't feel trapped with their current mask; preferring to stick with an unsuitable mask rather than risking money on a different mask and find it to be no better. Since introducing this option, thousands of patients have tried a mask they may otherwise not taken a chance on, and over 80% found it to be an improvement.

You can find out more information about Mask-Fit Insurance on any eligible CPAP mask. Around 90% of the masks on CPAP.co.uk have this option available.

5) Reviews, forums, feedback

We always recommend reading reviews that others have left about the mask you are considering. This allows you to see what other people's experience of that mask is. You can also consult our forums, forums.cpap.co.uk to see what advice other CPAP users can provide when it comes to choosing a mask, or even a particular mask. While we could provide enough information to fill an encyclopedia, there is no substitute for the input of those who use and wear CPAP masks every night.

6) Ask Intus Healthcare

While it is impossible for us to tell you exactly which mask to go for, our friendly team will be happy to narrow down the options for you. We can advise which type of mask would be best, and the most popular masks within that category. Ultimately the final decision will still be yours, but we can help provide the guidance you need. You can Contact Us if you're still unsure which mask would be most suitable for you.