One of the most vital components of CPAP therapy is the mask. The mask is the piece of equipment that patients engage with the most, as it’s always perched on the face and needs to be positioned perfectly for optimal therapy. Selecting the right mask can be the difference between compliant therapy and an unused CPAP machine, so when you’re picking a mask, it’s important to take the time to select the right one.
Part of that process should be spent determining which mask cushion is right for you. The mask may be the most vital part of therapy, but if you think about it, it’s really the cushion itself that makes all the difference. We’ll explain why and help you find the best cushion for your needs.
The Importance of the Cushion
The cushion is important for two big reasons. The first is seal. If your cushion doesn’t adequately seal against your face, your mask will leak air all night, preventing you from receiving optimal therapy. There are a number of factors that affect the quality of your seal and it’s extremely important to pick a mask that fits your particular facial features (patients with mustaches, for example, should use a full face mask).
The second is comfort. Your cushion will be pressed against your face for about eight hours a night every single day. If the cushion is uncomfortable, if it presses against your cheeks or leaves facial abrasions, you might end up disliking therapy or forgoing treatment altogether. Proper comfort is vital for successful therapy, so it’s very important to find a cushion that you like wearing. If you’re cushion is uncomfortable, get a new one.
Remember, most masks use the same frame and headgear for all sizes; only the size of the cushion changes. We often hear that patients dislike their mask because they have the wrong sized cushion. It’s an easy problem to fix more often than not: the vast majority of masks, particularly newer models, have multiple sizes. If your mask is too small or too large, you may be able to select something more appropriate. If you already have the smallest or largest cushion, you may be able to get your mask to fit better by adjusting headgear. Otherwise, you might have to choose a different mask entirely.
Silicone or gel?
Most CPAP cushions are made of silicone or a gel-based substance. There are exceptions — the SleepWeaver series uses a fabric design — but most fall into one of those two categories, and they don’t feel exactly the same.
The gel masks are made to be more malleable: over time, the gel will conform to fit your face. The gel is ideal for patients who find themselves between sizes, or people with unusual facial features, as the gel can be molded to fit particular facial structures.
The silicone cushions are less movable, but many users say that they find the silicone to be more comfortable. Silicone cushions tend to be lighter and softer. If you’re a patient who likes a lightweight design, you’ll want to select a silicone-cushioned mask. Most new masks are made with silicone cushions, although some old favorites — most prominently the ComfortGel Blue from Respironics — linger on. We carry a number of gel and silicone based masks at CPAPMan, so whatever your preference, we’ll be able help keep your CPAP therapy comfortable!