If you’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea, your doctor may have recommended you start using a CPAP machine. These machines are highly effective in treating sleep apnea and can help you feel more awake and alert during the day. However, many veterans may not use them regularly because they can be uncomfortable.
Although CPAP machines may not be the most fun to use, they’re the best way to treat sleep apnea. Read on to learn more about CPAP for veterans and how you can make yours easier to use.
In This Article About CPAP Machines for Veterans:
- What Is Sleep Apnea?
- Health Risks of Sleep Apnea
- What Is a CPAP?
- CPAP for Sleep Apnea
- CPAP for Other Conditions
- Common CPAP Complaints
- How Modern CPAP Machines Help
- Making a CPAP Machine More Comfortable
- Importance of Compliance
- Is Your CPAP Machine Tracking You?
- Will You Lose VA Benefits?
- How Often Does the VA Replace CPAPs?
- How to Qualify for VA Disability
- Proving a Service Connection for Sleep Apnea
- Sleep Apnea Ratings
- Learn More About CPAP for Veterans
What Is Sleep Apnea?
Before we dive in on what CPAP machines are and how they work, let’s talk some about sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a condition that impacts your ability to get into the deeper, more restful stages of sleep. It can leave you tired all the time throughout the day, as well as posing many other health risks.
When you start going to sleep, the muscles in the back of your throat relax, causing your soft palate to drop down. This blocks off your airways and prevents you from getting the oxygen you need. As carbon dioxide builds up in your system and your heart rate drops, your brain wakes you up so you can breathe.
It’s not hard to see how all of that waking up can result in a terrible night’s sleep.
Health Risks of Sleep Apnea
In addition to leaving you exhausted throughout the day, sleep apnea can put you at risk of several other serious health conditions. For one thing, sleep apnea puts your heart under more stress, which could leave you at higher risk for high blood pressure and other heart problems. You could be more likely to have a heart attack or a stroke if your sleep apnea goes untreated.
Sleep apnea can also increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, as well as metabolic syndrome. You may experience complications with various medications or during surgeries you need to have. You might also develop liver problems, including nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
What Is a CPAP?
The CPAP machine is one of the most effective treatments for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), as well as a variety of other conditions. The continuous positive air pressure (CPAP) machine helps to keep your airways open when you go to sleep. By placing positive pressure on your airways, this machine pushes your airways back open, ensuring that you get the oxygen and the rest that you need.
A CPAP machine has a mask that fits over your face, fitting underneath your nose. These masks have a strap that goes around the back of your head and another that goes over the top of your head to hold them in place. Some may cover your nose and mouth, and others may also have a strap that goes under your chin to keep your mouth closed as you sleep.
CPAP for Sleep Apnea
Of course, the CPAP machine’s best-known use is as a treatment for sleep apnea. In fact, it’s the most effective non-surgical way to treat sleep apnea, since it tackles the problem at its source. And while some lifestyle changes can help reduce sleep apnea symptoms, none of them are completely effective at handling your condition.
People with sleep apnea who use a CPAP machine report a reduction in daytime sleepiness. Patients who use a CPAP machine for seven hours a night or more have fewer symptoms of depression and fewer heart problems than patients who use it for five hours or less. People with sleep apnea and coronary artery disease who use a CPAP machine are less likely to experience heart failure.
CPAP for Other Conditions
You may be surprised to learn that a CPAP machine can help alleviate symptoms of several other conditions in addition to sleep apnea. As we mentioned, it can help to reduce the risk of heart failure in patients with coronary artery disease. It can also help reduce symptoms of depression, helping you feel even more alert and aware during the day.
Using a CPAP machine can reduce your risk of having a stroke, in part because of the strong connection between stroke and sleep apnea. And if you have some trouble with snoring and breathing cessation while you sleep, but you don’t think you have full-on sleep apnea, a CPAP machine could help you, too. The device can also treat upper airway resistance syndrome, a less serious form of sleep-disordered breathing.
Common CPAP Complaints
While a CPAP machine can help you take your life back from sleep apnea, it isn’t always the most fun to use. Many CPAP users find that the mask is hard to sleep in, or they may feel self-conscious about sleeping with it on. The tubing that connects your mask to the CPAP machine may also be restrictive if you move around in your sleep.
Many people also find that they wake up with a dry nose and a sore throat after a whole night of using their CPAP machine. You may develop a runny nose, congestion, and sneezing, or your eyes and the skin on your face may become irritated. Some people even experience abdominal bloating after using their CPAP machine.
How Modern CPAP Machines Help
Luckily, many modern CPAP companies are working to solve these problems and make their machines easier to use. Some newer CPAP machines have a smaller mask profile that sits just under your nose. This can be more comfortable to sleep in and may make the user feel less self-conscious.
Certain specialized CPAP machines start the night with lower air pressure and slowly increase it as the night goes on to reduce discomfort. Others use a different pressure when you breathe in than when you breathe out to make them more comfortable. Auto-titrating machines can even automatically increase or decrease your air pressure to ensure you have the most effective setup for you.
Here one of our VA disability lawyers goes over the questions Woods and Woods, The Veteran’s Firm, is often asked about veterans’ disability claims and appeals.
Making a CPAP Machine More Comfortable
There are also some things you can do at home to make your CPAP machine more comfortable to use. If you find your nose is runny or stuffed up, your doctor may be able to prescribe you a decongestant or a nasal spray to relieve your symptoms. Your doctor may also be able to help you adjust your mask to make it work better for you.
If your mouth and nose are dry, you can use a saline spray just before bed to reduce water loss. You can also set up a humidifier in your room to raise the overall moisture level when you sleep. You should also give things some time – you’ll likely become accustomed to your CPAP machine the more you use it.
Importance of Compliance
If your doctor prescribes you a CPAP machine, you must use it as ordered. Your CPAP machine can’t help you if you don’t use it, and it will be harder for you to get used to it if you only use it occasionally. The more regularly you use your CPAP machine, the better-rested you’ll be and the more comfortable you’ll find it to use.
It’s also important to use your CPAP machine if you receive benefits from the VA for sleep apnea. Although the VA rarely checks for compliance, it could have an impact on your insurance coverage for your CPAP machine. However, it is important to note that there is no documented case of a veteran losing benefits because they didn’t use their CPAP machine.
Is Your CPAP Machine Tracking You?
Many veterans may worry their CPAP machine is tracking whether they use it or not. Many CPAP machines indeed have smart computer chips in them that keep up to twelve months of data. Some machines even have an attachable modem or are wireless-enabled for data transmission.
In most cases, the VA does not use this data to track whether you use your CPAP machine or not. Instead, your doctor will use this data to check if the settings on your CPAP machine are working for you or if it needs adjustment. What your insurance company may be looking for, however, is a different question.
Will You Lose VA Benefits?
The short answer to whether you’ll lose VA benefits if you don’t use your CPAP machine is no. The VA will not track your compliance, and they will not revoke your disability benefits if you don’t use your machine. However, it is important to use your CPAP machine as prescribed so you can get the best results possible.
How Often Does the VA Replace CPAPs?
When you get a CPAP machine, you’ll need to maintain it to keep it working as it should. You’ll need to replace the filters in your CPAP machine every two to three months. You should replace the entire mask twice a year to keep it fitting properly on your face.
If you have VA disability benefits, the VA should help you replace the parts of your CPAP machine as needed. They may also allow you to bring in your CPAP machine for inspection and maintenance once a year. If it’s determined you need a new CPAP machine, they may replace it for you; visit your local VA office for more information.
You don’t have to use a Veteran’s compensation lawyer that is nearby. We can work with you over the phone and apply or appeal electronically.
How to Qualify for VA Disability
To get the VA to cover the cost of your CPAP machine, you must first qualify for VA disability benefits. To do so, you must meet three primary criteria. First and foremost, you must have an official diagnosis of your condition from a VA-approved medical provider.
Once you have your diagnosis, you must be able to point to a specific incident or set of conditions in your military service that could have caused your sleep apnea. Finally, you must have an official medical nexus stating that your condition was at least as likely as not caused by the incident in your military service record. Your diagnosing physician should be able to provide this nexus for you.
Proving a Service Connection for Sleep Apnea
In general, it’s difficult to get direct compensation from the VA for sleep apnea. Your condition must be caused by an incident in your military service, and most of the time, sleep apnea doesn’t have one specific cause. However, you can get disability benefits for sleep apnea as a secondary condition.
For instance, if you have post-traumatic stress disorder, it may exacerbate your sleep apnea. Because your service-connected condition is worsening your secondary condition, the VA will provide compensation for this condition, too. The same principle applies to type 2 diabetes if you get that as a result of your military service.
Here one of our founding VA disability lawyers talks about the benefits of Permanent ratings from the VA.
Sleep Apnea Ratings
If your VA disability claim gets approved, the VA will assign you a rating for your sleep apnea. This rating will reflect how much your sleep apnea impacts your ability to lead a normal, healthy life. Your disability rating will also be the biggest determining factor in how much money you receive from the VA each month.
If your sleep apnea makes you feel tired all the time during the day, you could get a 30 percent rating from the VA. If you have to use a CPAP machine to manage your sleep apnea, you’ll get a 50 percent rating. If your sleep apnea causes chronic respiratory failure and you have to have surgery, you could receive a 100 percent disability rating.
Learn More About CPAP for Veterans
A CPAP machine can be a fantastic way to treat sleep apnea and reduce daytime sleepiness. And while CPAP machines can be uncomfortable to use, complying with your doctor’s orders is important for you to get the best outcomes possible. You may not lose VA benefits by not using your CPAP machine, but you will lose valuable time and energy throughout your day.
If you’d like to learn more about CPAP for veterans, get in touch with us at Woods and Woods, The Veteran’s Firm. We fight for veterans every day, and you don’t pay unless we win. Contact us today to start getting the compensation and care you deserve.
Indirectly. We help thousands of veterans get VA disability and if you haven’t already had a diagnosis of sleep apnea, you will need to get that diagnosis from a doctor. This is part of the VA disability application process and we will walk you through it when you give us a call at (866)232-5777.
Some CPAP machines have a microchip in them to track usage, efficiency, and your sleep. They can be read when you take your CPAP machine in to the doctor if you complain that it needs to be adjusted or isn’t working. There aren’t any on the market yet that transmit your info via the internet without your knowledge. Talk to your doctor or your CPAP salesperson to know all of its features.