A Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine (CPAP) is a device that helps people with sleep apnea breathe more easily. A CPAP machine pushes pressurized air into your nose while you sleep so that the airway stays open.
Sleep apnea is a medical condition where your airway gets blocked, which causes breathing to repeatedly stop and start during sleep. When this happens, it’s called an apnea attack, which can increase the risk of health problems like high blood pressure and stroke.
Using a CPAP machine can cause problems with your hair because it reduces circulation in your head, which means fewer nutrients reach your roots where needed to help maintain steady hair growth. This can cause hair loss, which can eventually affect a person’s self-esteem and confidence.
What are the side effects of using CPAP machines?
CPAP machines are designed to help you breathe better, but can also have adverse side effects.
Short-Term Side Effects
- Dry mouth: A dry mouth often occurs because of the pressure on the airway, which causes the muscles in your throat to tense up and prevent saliva from flowing into your mouth.
- Breathing difficulty: When using a CPAP machine, you may experience shortness of breath because there’s less resistance when breathing through your nose and mouth simultaneously instead of just one or two nostrils.
- Nasal issues: Nasal issues include congestion and runny nose. CPAP users may experience stuffy or dry noses at night. This happens because there’s too much air pressure rushing back into the nose after every exhale during sleep.
- Aerophagia: This condition occurs when air enters your gastrointestinal tract (stomach and intestine). This could be caused by a low flow from your CPAP machine or nasal congestion.
Long-Term Side Effects
- Hair loss: CPAP machines can cause hair loss in both men and women. Hair loss occurs when there is pressure on your scalp, which can cause blood vessels to swell and break down hair follicles.
- Dry eyes: CPAP machines often block moisture from reaching your eyes, which can cause dry eyes. Dry eyes can lead to irritation and even corneal sensitivity or damage if not adequately treated.
- Sore throat: CPAP machines may block moisture from reaching your throat area, which can cause irritation or congestion.
- Skin irritation: The masks that come with most CPAP machines can be very uncomfortable and often make breathing difficult. These masks can also cause skin irritation, making your skin look red or irritated.
- Rainout mask issues: Wearing a CPAP rainout mask causes heated air to cool in your tubing and reaches your mask as water, causing you to get a damp face. This can cause you to wake up at intervals to dry yourself and your equipment off, leading to discomfort and interrupted sleep hours.
- Stress: CPAP machine usage can cause increased stress due to the body’s production of more adrenaline and cortisol, which are leading causes of stress.
What causes CPAP-related hair loss?
Breakage or friction problems with the mask are the most common causes of hair loss with CPAP. For example, if you have a latex mask, then it’s likely that your hair will get caught in the gaps between the mask and your face. The hair follicles may get irritated and damaged as a result, which may result in hair loss.
Another common cause of CPAP-related hair loss is the improper fitting of the straps and headgear. If your mask doesn’t fit correctly, it could pull on your scalp and press against it when you breathe out. This pressure can cause friction damage to your scalp and lead to hair loss over time.
Finally, the type of hair can also play a role in causing CPAP-related hair loss. In particular, thin hair tends to be more susceptible to damage by CPAP machines than thick or curly hair. This is because thin hair does not have enough volume, which can help protect against the stress on the scalp caused by the CPAP mask.
How Alopecia and Sleep Apnea Are Related
Hair loss is a common symptom of sleep apnea and alopecia. Alopecia is a condition that causes bald patches or complete hair loss on the scalp. It is typically caused by genetic predisposition and hormonal imbalance, among other reasons.
Sleep apnea is a respiratory disorder that causes breathing to pause and resume during sleep. It can lead to permanent damage to your hair follicles over time.
It is well known that sleep apnea and alopecia are linked, with each condition causing physical and emotional distress for those who suffer from one or the other. The relationship between these two conditions may be because both disorders involve hair loss.
What are the preventive measures to reduce hair loss while using a CPAP machine?
As already noted, the use of CPAP machines can lead to hair loss due to the pressure exerted on the scalp and the thinning of the hair.
However, there are preventive measures that you can follow while using a CPAP machine to avoid hair loss, including the following:
- Find a good quality and apt CPAP machine. With many CPAP machine providers, choosing a high-quality machine that suits your needs is essential. One of the ways to find the best CPAP machines is by reading reviews from others who have purchased them. Your doctor might also recommend specific brands or models depending on your condition and needs.
- Choose a CPAP pillowcase. You can get quality sleep with the right CPAP pillowcase. You will also feel more comfortable and relaxed, and wake up feeling refreshed. The easiest way to prevent hair loss is to choose a CPAP pillowcase made of cotton or polyester. These materials are generally gentle on the skin and help prevent damage to your scalp.
- Avoid resting with wet hair. If you’re using a CPAP machine, one essential thing to do is to stop sleeping with damp hair to prevent hair loss. Resting with wet hair will cause your hair to stay moist and increase the chances of breakage and shedding.
- Keep your CPAP mask more comfortable with a cap. Wearing a recommended cotton cap will protect your hair from getting caught in the gears of your machine. This will prevent any snags or pulls that could damage your hair, and help you sleep more comfortably.
- Retain your hair strength by consuming nutritious food. Maintaining a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, and lean protein will help keep your hair strong, shiny, and healthy.
CPAP Machines and Hair Loss Management
Hair fall and CPAP machines are interconnected because hair loss is a common problem among those who suffer from sleep apnea. CPAP machines are a form of therapy to help people with sleep apnea maintain an adequate level of oxygen in the blood during sleep. When the body receives too little oxygen, it results in various health issues such as high blood pressure and heart diseases.
You may experience side effects like hair loss, difficulty breathing, and nasal congestion while using a CPAP machine. Thus, it is essential to find out if you have underlying health conditions that could trigger these side effects. You can also consult your doctor for treatment and see if you need to make changes in your lifestyle that will generally improve your health.