CPAP And Sinus Infections

One of the more common complaints from CPAP users is that they are prone to sinus infections. Typically, they deal with it using saline irrigation, decongestants, and sometimes even go to their doctor for antibiotics. As a result, people suspect contamination or infection from their equipment, especially the mask, tubing or even the machine itself. Other suspects include molds, allergies or even sensitivity to their masks.

I had an experience today with a patient that makes me rethink how CPAP may aggravate nasal or sinus infections. This patient was unable to use CPAP after 4-5 days because his nose and sinuses would burn. He interpreted this as an infection. His numbers and other compliance parameters were perfect. While performing nasal endoscopy (placing a thin flexible camera in his nose) he commented that the sensation was identical to the feeling that he experienced when he used CPAP.

That got me thinking about how most cases of sinus headaches and pain have been shown to be a variation of a migraine. This is a neurologic reaction to any sort of irritation or stimulation. If you were to undergo a CAT scan during an episode, you’ll see that in most cases, it’ll be completely normal. Unfortunately, too many people end up being given oral antibiotics.

What can you do about this if you’re susceptible to these problems? Unfortunately, it’s a catch-22. In theory, the best way of handling this is to treat the underlying obstructive sleep apnea, but in this case, the treatment itself can cause nasal inflammation that can worsen sleep apnea. Many people benefit significantly by using CPAP, but there will always be a few people who absolutely can’t tolerate CPAP, no matter how hard they try to use it (different machines, settings, masks, medications, or other gadgets.)

Do you get recurrent sinus “infections” when you use your CPAP?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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108 thoughts on “CPAP And Sinus Infections

  1. I too have been struggling with chronic sinus and ear infections, constant drainage, cough, earaches and bronchitis thru out the years. Every occurrence is treated with antibiotics, inhalers among other remedies. Problems clear but come back again.
    I had always had a thought that the cpap was getting me sick but passed on that since I keep everything clean.
    My cpad is issued by the VA and get all my cpap gear from them also.
    Just by chance I decided to look into side effects and came upon this site.
    I always keep my cpap hose, mask and filters clean. I also do not use the humidifier part of the cpap.
    Today I decided to disinfect the whole machine and will see how I feel tomorrow morning. I also have an appointment with my VA provider and will mention my thoughts on the cpap causing my health problems. Will keep you posted. Thanks

  2. Yes I get sinus infections that end up causing congestion in my lungs. Two times its lead to congestive heart failure. So I stopped using my clap for about six months and haven’t been able to sleep at night. I’ve been back using the clap for almost two months and have just got a sinus infection and during the time I wasn’t using the clap I had no problems with sinuses. I don’t know what to do.

  3. I am a CPAP user for a period of 5 months, about a week ago I started with a cold, few days later my sinus got involved (infection) lots of discharge ( thick, brown, bloody, lots of coughing ) I went to see my Sleep Apnea doctor, He prescribed antibiotics along with other medicines (nose sprays). Please advise kindly if the air pressure (6 points) going into my nostrils has anything to do with it? and this could be the cause of my sinus infection.

  4. Yes, someone needs to tell all doctors at clinics, sleep ap U get eye & Sinus Infections, been on machine for 10-12 years when they started sleep ap. my NEW doctor looks at me like no way (both my old doctors retired, they listened understood 1 was on sleep ap ) and doesnt beleave me. then need amoxicillin 750 megers. i tryed flonase sense spring i can have flowers by me any more bought roses for wifies earthday and forgot. boy it killed me. peanut butter too up to 2 shots EpiPen. another story. now almost monthly sinus eye infection. i stopped going to doctor she does listen, thinks no way. any how typen this with 1 eye closed. the dentist says teeth hurt cause sinus infection. so i start all over again need new doctor that knows! sorry just isnt rt is it. forgive spelling. help, guess need doc thats on sleep ap and has same problems as me?

  5. Within the last year i have developed sinus problems using the CPAP machine.
    I use it everyday and it has made a huge difference in my sleep. I have had 6 cold/allergy/nasal infections since the beginning of the year. I use it no matter what, i find I rest better, but with a sinus episode it causes nasal drip, so I shut it down.
    I have made in appointment with a ENT specialist.
    I hope to get some sort of answer and solution to my problem.
    I clean my nasal pillows everyday and tubing every third day. I recently went to using 2 filters and a foam piece on my repironics device. I set my humidity to 4.

  6. I have been using S8 CPAP for a number of years (8+), just in the last year I have started getting sinus and ear infections, constant drainage, cough, earaches and bronchitis, I have replaced Mask, Tubing & and don’t use Humidifier, but infections just get worse, have been advised to buy new machine, but would have thought there must be a way of cleaning the machine itself, they cost a lot of money.

  7. I’ve been using a C-pap for almost a year. Normally, I get about 1 or 2 sinus infections per year. I am on my 4th infection and antibiotic treatment since last November when I started using the machine. I will continue to try to figure out how to keep my sinus issues in check. But I cannot go without a good night’s sleep!!

  8. Dr. Park, I have been using a CPAP for about two years. It greatly improved my physical and mental health. Last year I had three severe ear infections in my left ear as a result of colds or allergies. I thought that I might have a benign tumor in my ear, because it never seemed to completely drain. All three times I lost my hearing, and the last time my eardrum ruptured.

    I haven’t had a cold or allergy attack this year. But I can still feel irritation in my left ear. When I wake up in the morning after a night of using the CPAP, I can feel the pressure in my inner ear. My nose is not obstructed and there’s no pain, but I can definitely feel pressure in the left side of my face. My right ear is never affected.

    I’ve been to two ENTs. One wanted to put tubes in my ears. Wouldn’t that defeat the purpose of the CPAP? Neither of these doctors seemed to believe that my problem was connected with the CPAP.

    The doctor at the sleep center just told me to lose 25 lbs and I could lose the CPAP. I would like to do that, but what should can I do in the meantime?

    I’ve just found your site and everything you’re saying makes so much sense. I’ve been told by several dentists that I have a “small mouth”. So do my sons. We also had ear infections when we were small children and have all been diagnosed with ADHD. I also have IBS. I’ve always believed that my health problems were connected, and you have confirmed that. Thank you for your information.