Bilevel PAP Treatment: Is It Right for You?

Explore what Bilevel is and if this form of sleep therapy may be more suitable for you.

Of the approximately 22 million Americans who suffer from sleep apnea, many have experienced the benefits of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). However, for more complex cases of sleep apnea and other conditions that make it difficult to breathe during sleep, there is a better alternative: bilevel positive airway pressure (or referred to by some people as BiPAP®). Bilevel offers many of the same components as standard CPAP, but there are several key differences. 

What is the difference between a Bilevel (BiPAP®) and a CPAP machine?

CPAP machines have a single pressure setting and provide a continuous stream of air into your airways during sleep to prevent them from closing. A bilevel device, on the other hand, features two pressure settings: one for inhalation and one for exhalation. Bilevel can map your breathing pattern and time the duration between breaths. 

Who does Bilevel help? 

A BiPAP® device or bilevel device is typically used to alleviate symptoms related to central sleep apnea, a condition that often occurs if you have suffered a stroke or have congestive heart failure. It may also be used for severe cases of obstructive sleep apnea if CPAP treatment is not sufficient. Other conditions Bilevel can help treat include: 

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD)
  • Obesity hypoventilation syndrome
  • Pneumonia
  • Asthma 
  • Neurological diseases that disturb breathing, such as a spinal cord injury, ALS, and MLS

BiPAP® devices or bilevel devices are also sometimes used by those who experience discomfort while using a regular CPAP machine. It can be difficult for some to exhale during the night, especially if they require a higher pressure setting. 

Setting up your Bilevel device

Once you and your practitioner have decided bilevel treatment is right for you, your machine will need to be calibrated. A respiratory therapist or other medical professional will prepare the settings on your device to ensure the pressure is set correctly to your specific needs and consistent with your practitioner’s order. If you feel discomfort once you begin treatment, check with your practitioner to determine if the pressure needs to be adjusted. You will also be shown how to clean and maintain your equipment. The PAP components, such as your mask, filters, and tubing, require regular cleaning and periodic replacement as they wear out after repeated use. 

Are there side effects of Bilevel treatment?

Bilevel is a safe treatment option, and the potential side effects are typically mild. Those who experience side effects report dryness of the nose and mouth, bloating, runny nose, sinus discomfort, and skin irritation from the mask. Let your practitioner know if you experience any discomfort, as simple adjustments can usually remedy any issue. 

If the mask causes irritation or redness, chances are it is too tight. Try loosening the mask or purchasing a mask liner, which will add an extra layer of comfort. Using a Bilevel device can take time to adjust to initially, but you will likely get used to it fairly quickly. If you continue to experience discomfort with your treatment, speak to your practitioner about what other options are available to you. 

Lincare can help you on the road to better breathing

At Lincare, we offer Home Sleep Testing (HST) in the convenience and privacy of your home pursuant to your practitioners order. This process diagnoses obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) without requiring you to spend the night in a testing center. Our goal is for you to feel comfortable as we work together to determine whether sleep therapy such as CPAP or Bilevel is right for you. Valuable resources we provide include:
  • Screening tools
  • Diagnosis through HST
  • Treatment options
  • Training, education, and support
  • Enhanced compliance

Our trained professional staff will help you make the most of your treatment. We will help you set up your machine, conduct regular follow-ups to monitor your treatment, and check your supply needs. We also offer educational programming to help you understand your condition and empower you with the knowledge you need to complete your treatment comfortably and with confidence. 

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