woman sleeping with cpap and maskThere is no doubt that for people with sleep apnea in Columbus, CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) can be a life-saving therapy. The numerous health complications associated with sleep apnea are deadly, increasing a person’s risk of death from any cause over the short term. CPAP can reduce these dangers, helping people live longer.

However, there are also potentially serious risks associated with the use of CPAP. One large population-based study showed, for example, that CPAP could increase the risk of developing pneumonia. While people with sleep apnea have an increased risk of pneumonia generally, the risk is even greater for people using CPAP.

This makes it critical for people to consider CPAP alternatives. To learn more about CPAP alternatives in Columbus, OH, please call to schedule an appointment with sleep dentist Dr. Mike Firouzian. People who choose CPAP should take care of their machines to help control this and other risks of illness.

Sleep Apnea Increases Pneumonia Risk

In 2014, a large national study demonstrated a significant connection between sleep apnea and pneumonia risk. The study followed a total of 34,100 people (6816 who had sleep apnea and 27,284 controls) from January 1, 2000, to December 31, 2010, although the average follow-up was only 4.5 years. This study showed that although 7.77% of controls developed pneumonia, 9.36% of people with sleep apnea developed pneumonia. Statistical analysis showed that this meant that people with sleep apnea had a 20% higher risk of developing pneumonia.

Why do people with sleep apnea have increased pneumonia risk? The study authors pose two potential explanations: aspiration risk and impaired immunity. Pneumonia is a lung infection. It often occurs when people inhale (aspirate) fluid or solid particles into the lungs. People with sleep apnea might be more likely to aspirate fluids from the throat when they have an apneic episode and gasp for breath.

In addition, people with sleep apnea have weakened immune systems. This might make it harder for their bodies to fight infections related to incidental aspiration of fluid and particles.

CPAP Increases Risk Further

In this study, people who used CPAP had an even higher risk of pneumonia than those with sleep apnea who weren’t using CPAP. In their in-depth breakdown, researchers showed that people with sleep apnea who didn’t need CPAP had only a 15% increase in pneumonia risk. Those with more severe sleep apnea, who were encouraged to get CPAP had a 32% higher risk of pneumonia.

The study authors mention that “The risk was even higher among patients who received CPAP therapy,” but they don’t present this analysis in their paper, perhaps because the difference was not statistically significant.

The authors speculate that CPAP increases the risk of pneumonia because it keeps saliva from leaving the mouth. Instead, CPAP dries up saliva and forces saliva and bacteria down into the lungs. They say that a CPAP humidifier might increase the risk.

How to Reduce Pneumonia Risk with CPAP

If you have sleep apnea in Columbus, leaving it untreated is not a good option. In addition, CPAP may be the best treatment for some people. So how do you safely use CPAP to treat your sleep apnea?

Cleaning your CPAP regularly seems to be the best protection against CPAP-related infections. In a 2001 study, looking at 246 patients with sleep apnea, CPAP nearly doubled the risk of upper respiratory tract infection. However, much of this increased risk seemed to be related to poor cleaning of the CPAP machine. In this study, 57.1% of people who didn’t clean their CPAP regularly saw increased infections, compared to only 20% of those who cleaned their CPAP regularly.

Cleaning CPAP is a significant burden. It adds time and complication to using CPAP treatment, especially for people with already busy schedules.

People in Columbus who can’t devote enough time to cleaning their CPAP should consider an alternative treatment for their sleep apnea. In addition, if you notice an increase in your respiratory infections after you start CPAP therapy, you should talk to a Columbus sleep dentist about switching to an alternative treatment.

Find An Effective, Healthy CPAP Alternative in Columbus, Ohio

Have you been diagnosed with sleep apnea? Do you dislike the thought of CPAP or aren’t sure you can maintain your CPAP well enough to avoid pneumonia risks? Let Columbus sleep dentist Mike Firouzian help. He can determine if you are a good candidate for oral appliance therapy. Oral appliance therapy works just as well as CPAP, but it is much easier to maintain and has never been associated with an increased risk of pneumonia. The DNA appliance even has the potential to cure sleep apnea.

To learn about CPAP alternatives, please call (614) 683-4640 or use our online form to request an appointment at Firouzian Dentistry in Columbus, OH.