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August 18, 2019  
MEDTECH NEWS: Living With a Device

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  • The Truth Behind the Mask

    March 08, 2001

    By Sheila Dwyer, MedTech1 Staff

    Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a common yet underdiagnosed condition. It affects 18 million Americans by interrupting their breathing during sleep, leaving them tired after a night of fitful rest.

    Jon Christie, 24, was diagnosed with OSA in 1996. Before his diagnosis, his loud snoring would sometimes stir him out of his sleep, but he never thought twice about it.

    In 1996, as part of his regular checkup to monitor his already-diagnosed narcolepsy, his physician suggested he undergo a sleep study. The clinicians who conducted the study detected a mild sleep apnea.

    Jon’s doctor recommended he try a technique called continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) to treat his OSA. Each night, Jon would have to wear a mask that increased the air pressure inside his throat and therefore allowed him to sleep without interruption. The mask attaches with a tube to an oxygen-pumping machine, continuously sending him oxygen. Jon’s narcolepsy already made him feel constantly overtired and his doctor suspected that a better night’s sleep would allow him to feel more rested during the day.

    However, Jon was just about to go away to college when he was diagnosed with OSA. In a new environment, he was not entirely comfortable with wearing a mask to bed. “A respiratory therapist brought the machine up to my dorm room, which was kind of awkward,” Jon says. “And I really did not like the mask that they had at that time. Honestly, I did not give it a good shot. I probably wore it five or six times, then gave the machine back to the company.”

    Jon did not use the CPAP machine until he moved home to attend college closer to where he grew up. “When I moved home to go to school here, I figured I should give it another try.” In October 1998, he started using the CPAP technique in earnest.

    Since Jon has become accustomed to the CPAP mask and machine, he notices that he feels more refreshed during the day. “If there is not some type of surgery that can help my OSA,” Jon says, “I will probably wear the CPAP mask for the rest of my life. It is pretty comfortable.”

    He has moved past the awkwardness he once associated with the CPAP technique and mask to benefit finally from a better sleep. His new attitude is, “Once you get used to it, it is not that big a deal.”

    Last updated: 08-Mar-01

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