TUESDAY, Oct. 5 (HealthDay News) -- The breathing masks often prescribed to treat sleep apnea can subtly alter the shape of a patient's face with prolonged use, a new study suggests.
The common treatment, called continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) can help relieve the interrupted breathing of sleep apnea. However, "my research found possible craniofacial change [as a result of] long-term CPAP use," said study author Hiroko Tsuda, an assistant professor in the general oral clinic at Kyushu University Hospital in Japan.
Tsuda, who conducted his work out of the department of oral health sciences at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, reports on the findings in the October issue of Chest.
The authors point out that CPAP therapy is the first line of therapy for most patients diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, which is characterized by an upper airway narrowing that blocks airflow and, in turn, prompts continual sleep disruption.
Typically such treatment is prescribed for long-term use, and involves the wearing of a full-face mask or nose mask during sleep to drive continuous pressure through the airways and keep them open and maintain unobstructed breathing.
Though often very effective, this technique for dealing with the most common form of sleep apnea is, however, already known to prompt side effects ranging from skin abrasions and a stuffy nose to dry mouth and abdominal bloating (from excess swallowing of air).
But to explore the specific question of whether CPAP use might also cause structural facial changes, the authors focused on 46 Japanese sleep apnea patients who were being treated at Kirigaoka Tsuda Hospital's Sleep Center in Japan between 2005 and 2006.
All the patients (nearly 90 percent of whom were men) had been undergoing CPAP therapy for a minimum of two years, with an average treatment period of almost three ye
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