Some individuals with low oxygen levels due to breathing problems have been prescribed oxygen concentrators by their doctors, whilst others get prescriptions for the (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) CPAP machine. It begs the question, how are they different if they can be used to treat the same conditions? Still confused? No worries. By the end of this article, you will have a better idea of how both functions to help their users with supplemental oxygen.
What Is an Oxygen Concentrator?
An oxygen concentrator, used for oxygen therapy, is a nitrogen filtering device that is independent and non-invasive. Its goal is to discharge the nitrogen-free oxygen in a concentrated form. It functions by filtering the ambient air around you before introducing it to your airway through a flexible oxygen tubing. This device delivers between 87 to 93% of pure oxygen, which can be administered in two ways: as a continuous stream of air (continuous flow) or in small, measured, and controlled volumes (pulse flow).
It can be used to treat a wide range of respiratory problems ranging from progressive disorders like COPD, Severe asthma, and Cystic fibrosis, to a few sleep disorders like Obstructive Sleep Apnea. However, for one reason or the other based on personal preferences, patients seem to prefer oxygen concentrators.
Types of Oxygen Concentrators
- Home oxygen concentrator: They are designed for usage inside the home, with no option for mobility. They offer oxygen therapy to patients as a quiet, long-lasting, and dependable source of medical-grade oxygen in the privacy of their own homes. These continuous flow oxygen concentrators spare you the hassles of rechargeable power as there are no batteries to charge or replace because they are powered by a wall socket.
- Portable oxygen concentrator: These are built to serve the same purpose of oxygen delivery, but are much lighter and smaller than the home oxygen concentrator, allowing for easy mobility. They also deliver oxygen flow via pulse dose and/or continuous flow oxygen.
What is a CPAP Machine?
A CPAP machine or continuous positive airway pressure machine is a medical device used mostly for the treatment of sleep apnea. In this condition, the muscles of the throat collapse during sleep, obstructing the airway. This “apneic,” or paused breathing episode, causes a shortage of oxygen to the brain and could occur more than 30 times each hour in a single night in severe situations.
CPAP machines help to reduce this harmful yet all-too-common narrowing of the airway by silently and efficiently sucking in ambient air, softly pressurizing it, and then feeding it into your respiratory passages via either a nose or full-face mask whilst sleeping.
It is only prescribed by a doctor after a sleep study has confirmed the diagnosis.
Features of a CPAP Machine
CPAP machines use various types of CPAP masks to deliver pressurized air through the nose or nose and mouth. A doctor determines the machine’s pressure setting based on the severity of sleep apnea. The specified air pressure is the bare minimum required to keep the airway open all night.
Types of CPAP Machines
- Standard CPAP machine
- Auto CPAP machine (Also known as Automatic Positive Airway Pressure – APAP)
- BiPAP machine (BiLevel Positive Airway Pressure)
- Travel CPAP machine
Standard CPAP machine: This CPAP device provides a single fixed pressure setting of airflow. To enhance the therapeutic experience, CPAP machines may include numerous comfort settings, such as optional humidifiers.
APAP machine: This device operates through a range of pressure settings, which can automatically be adjusted to meet the patient’s needs at the time. Obstruction of the airway could be worsened by a number of factors like weight gain or sleeping position. The auto feature is helpful when these changes occur.
BiPAP machine: These are designed to treat severe forms of sleep apnea such as central sleep apnea and certain respiratory problems. It provides therapy are two separate air pressure settings: one for inhalation and the other for exhalation. Please note that these features do not make the BiPAP the “best pick”, but can only be prescribed by the doctor tailored to the mentioned forms of sleep apnea above.
Travel CPAP machine: These offer the same features as the home unit, but are lighter, more compact, and suited for traveling.
Oxygen Concentrator Vs CPAP Machine: The Differences
Putting things simply:
- An oxygen concentrator is built with the special ability to produce pure oxygen from the surrounding air. It can be used to provide supplemental oxygen to patients living with COPD and other progressive lung diseases. The huge benefit of this device is the elimination of having to carry heavy oxygen tanks around during therapy.
- The CPAP machine is also used to treat patients with breathing difficulties, but more specifically, patients with sleep disorders like Obstructive sleep apnea. For most, CPAP therapy could be temporary, after which is discontinued when oxygen levels are back to normal.
The main point here is that oxygen therapy cannot be used as a substitute for CPAP therapy and vice versa. Both are used to treat breathing problems, but which conditions, how they work, and when they work are different. In addition, not everyone needs either or both. it’s based solely on the discretion of your doctor.
The next question may be, “I got a prescription for both from my doctor. Can I use them at the same time?”
Can the Oxygen Concentrator be Used with The CPAP machine?
Of course yes. Some patients do require an oxygen concentrator and a CPAP machine for treatment at the same time. If you have COPD or Emphysema as well as Sleep Apnea, you may need oxygen therapy in addition to your CPAP device. It’s easy to connect your oxygen tubing to your CPAP mask and obtain the benefits of both therapies while you sleep with minor changes to your therapy setup.
How to Connect Both
Your concentrator’s model has no bearing on whether or not it will operate with a CPAP machine. Your oxygen concentrator will operate with your CPAP as long as it has the continuous oxygen dosage setting you require. The style of mask and/or CPAP tubing you use with your CPAP machine will determine how you will use oxygen with it.
Most basic CPAP nose masks have a bleed-in port on the side that allows you to connect oxygen tubing straight from your oxygen concentrator to your mask. When not in use, simply close this port and return to using your CPAP without oxygen.
You may need to connect your oxygen tube to your CPAP hose if your mask does not have a bleed-in port. An Oxygen Enrichment Adapter or Oxygen Bleed-in Adapter can help you do that. The Oxygen Enrichment Adapter allows you to inject oxygen into your CPAP hose through a special adapter that connects your oxygen tubing to your CPAP hose, allowing you to benefit from both therapies.
In conclusion, with the right parts to connect your oxygen concentrator and CPAP machine, you can use both simultaneously to achieve your treatment goals.