Researchers have discovered that frequent use of Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machines to treat obstructive sleep apnea could actually change the shape of an individual's face:

Researchers at Kyushu University Hospital in Fukuoka, Japan, and at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, studied 46 adults, 89% of them male, with obstructive sleep apnea.

Earlier research had reported craniofacial side effects among children who used CPAP machines. But the researchers say there had been no documented evidence indicating there was also craniofacial changes in adults.

The researchers took X-rays of the participants' faces after they had used the airway pressure machines for more than two years. Nasal continuous positive airway pressure involves wearing a mask to bed at night that is connected to a machine that helps patients breathe easier. Patients are typically fitted for their masks.

After evaluating the participants, researchers found that using these airway pressure machines was associated with reduced maxillary and mandibular or front jaw prominence, and altering the two dental arches.

Individuals undergoing this type of therapy will usually need to be fitted for a connection to your nose and/or mouth, tubing and headgear, better known as "an interface". The mask is attached to tubing that, connected to the CPAP machine, delivers the pressurized air that prevents apneas from occurring. It is very important that the mask is comfortable and provides a proper seal for the airflow; the proper air pressure level cannot be established unless the fit is correct.

Most masks are triangular in shape and are worn over your nose (or the nose and mouth, with a full-face mask for mouth breathers) while the adjustable straps of the headgear hold the mask in place. Headgear straps must be snug enough for a good fit in all sleeping positions (back, side, and front) but not tight.

The concern is that repeated use of these machines could change one's facial profile, reduce tongue space, and potentially worsen obstructive sleep apnea symptoms over time, particularly if craniofacial changes reduce the patient's ability to breathe.

The findings are reported in the October issue of CHEST, a journal of the American College of Chest Physicians.

via WebMD