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Scientific findings published in the ERJ in March 2011

Reducing the side-effects of CPAP treatment for sleep apnoea

People with obstructive sleep apnoea use continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) to help them breathe normally whilst they are asleep. CPAP generates a continuous airstream to keep the airways open and provides many benefits, including an improved quality of life and cardiovascular health.

However, side effects such as a blocked, dry or runny nose can occur as a result of using the treatment and can counteract the benefits it provides.

Greek researchers have uncovered the cause of adverse side-effects in the nose linked with using CPAP to treat sleep apnoea. The researchers demonstrated that the warming and moistening of air inhaled through CPAP can help to reduce these side-effects. Although previous research has shown that warming the CPAP airstream can benefit people with sleep apnoea, this is the first study that has examined how the heated air can improve symptoms.

A total of 20 people with sleep apnoea, who were already using CPAP treatment, were split into two groups: one group received 3 weeks of CPAP with a heated airstream, and the other group received normal CPAP, with no heating. The groups’ treatments were then swapped. The participants completed questionnaires to explain whether they experienced a runny nose, sneezing, an impaired sense of smell and/or a blocked nose. The researchers also measured resistance in the nose to the airflow from CPAP and analysed tissue taken from the nose.

The study found that heating the CPAP airstream can decrease the amount of inflammation in the nose and associated symptoms, as well as reducing any resistance to the airflow. These results also support a previous study which provided evidence that congestion and other symptoms in the nose are caused by the inflammatory effect of CPAP on nasal mucus.

The findings suggest that anti-inflammatory drugs might be used alongside CPAP in the future to help ease adverse symptoms, but further studies will be needed to investigate this.


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