Dry Eyes and CPAP Machines — What You Should Know

A CPAP machine is essential for mitigating sleep apnea so you can get a full night of uninterrupted sleep. While using a CPAP machine can certainly help you feel better rested, using these devices can sometimes introduce a few negative side effects.

One of the most common side effects of using a CPAP machine is one you might not expect: dry eyes. 

Fortunately, by understanding what causes dry eyes, as well as how to address this issue, you can enjoy the quality sleep you need without negatively affecting your eyes.

Dry Eye Symptoms

Dry eyes can have a variety of symptoms, though the most common are a dry, scratchy sensation. The eyes may look red and irritated. A stinging or burning feeling is also common.

In addition to this general discomfort, some people also experience stringy mucus around their eyes, or like they have something stuck in their eyes. Dry eyes can also make it harder to wear contact lenses due to increased sensitivity. 

People with dry eyes may also be more sensitive to light, and can even experience blurry vision. These side effects can make driving at night particularly difficult.

How Can Your CPAP Machine Cause Dry Eyes?

cpap mask

It’s not the CPAP machine itself that causes dry eyes — rather, it is the CPAP mask that could be to blame. 

If your mask is not fitted properly to your face, an air leak is likely to occur. These leaks are especially common around the bridge of the nose, and as a result, the air that escapes from the mask is most likely going to go over your eyes. If you have a high CPAP pressure setting, a significant amount of air could be flowing over the eyes throughout the night and drying them out.

While dry eye symptoms that begin after you start using a CPAP machine are likely linked to a mask leak, this isn’t the only possible culprit.

Other Causes of Dry Eyes

Your room and your health can also contribute to dry eyes, regardless of the quality of your CPAP mask. For example, blowing air from a ceiling fan or air vent can also contribute to dry eyes, especially if your indoor air is dry. Airborne allergens, such as dust, pet dander, and pollen can also cause the eyes to become dry and irritated.

Several underlying health conditions can also contribute to dry eyes. Diabetes and hypertension, which are also commonly linked to sleep apnea, can reduce the body’s tear production and increase the likelihood of developing dry eyes.

If you already experience these issues, even a minor air leak from your CPAP mask can cause major irritation.

Preventing and Treating CPAP-Related Dry Eyes

man wearing cpap mask

If you’ve determined that a leaking CPAP mask is to blame for your dry eyes, the first order of business is to ensure that you are actually wearing the mask properly. CPAP masks should fit snugly (though not too tight) against the face to prevent leaks. You will typically need to adjust the straps after lying down to get a proper fit.

You should also clean the CPAP mask components regularly, and replace them based on the manufacturer’s schedule to prevent deterioration that could contribute to leaks. Don’t forget about the mask straps that help hold the mask in place! You can also reduce the risk of leaks by avoiding the use of moisturizers on the part of the face where you use the mask.

If these steps don’t help, consult with a sleep specialist. They can help you determine if you are using the wrong size mask, or if a different type of mask would be better suited for your needs. For example, men with beards often experience leaks when using a full face mask because their facial hair prevents the formation of an airtight seal. In this case, switching to nasal pillows could make all the difference.

For individuals with chronic dry eye, there are several additional steps that may need to be taken. For example, you could use a humidifier to increase indoor humidity (a CPAP humidifier can also make your sleep apnea treatment more comfortable). The use of eye drops or artificial tears can help relieve symptoms, while adding more omega-3 fatty acids to your diet can improve eye health.

If you work at a computer, you may need to practice blinking more frequently. You should also take regular breaks from the screen. Every 20 minutes, take a 20 second break where you focus on an object at least 20 feet away. Then, each hour, take a longer break away from the screen. These simple steps can help prevent eye strain and dry eye symptoms. 

Get Quality Sleep Without Hurting Your Eyes!

While a CPAP machine can help you sleep better, the right (or wrong) CPAP mask will go a long way in determining the effectiveness of your treatment — including whether or not you experience dry eyes.

At Help Medical Supplies, we make it easy to find the right CPAP machines and masks for your treatment needs. With a wide selection of full face masks, nasal masks, and nasal pillows, you’ll have no trouble finding an option that works well for your face shape and sleep position.

Better yet, many of these masks are available at discounted prices off of MSRP. Combined with free shipping on all orders of $89 or more and available financing on purchases of $500 and up, and it’s never been easier to get a good night’s sleep without breaking the bank.

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