Oxygen Concentrators VS CPAP Machines: How Are They Different?

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Oxygen Concentrators VS CPAP Machines

Almost 22 million people in the United States suffer from Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). This common disorder causes loud snoring and choking during sleep. You probably must have noticed someone doing that at least once in a lifetime. 

However, OSA is more than just being unable to sleep at night. It’s about the inability to breathe correctly and fulfill the body’s oxygen requirements.  What actually happens is that the airways collapse during sleep.

This particular blockage reduces the oxygen supply from the respiratory system to the rest of the body. Consequently, the oxygen levels in the blood drop significantly (also called hypoxemia). If a person does not wake up on time, obstructive sleep apnea can cause death. 

Fortunately, there are two easy solutions available to help OSA patients. 

Both of these therapies work to improve blood oxygen levels. However, the way they work and their conditions are quite different. Let’s explore in detail below!

What’s an Oxygen Concentrator? 

An oxygen concentrator is a medical device used to balance low oxygen levels in the human body. Doctors commonly prescribe it to patients with:

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea
  • Lung cancer
  • Asthma
  • COPD
  • Covid-19

How Does It Work?

Oxygen concentrators have a simple mechanism. Their core purpose is to extract oxygen from the air, filter out the nitrogen, and supply the purified oxygen to you. Please note that it is not an oxygen tank. 

The concentrator is a typically large device with thin, plastic tubes running from it to your nose. These tubes are also called nasal cannulas. They transport the filtered oxygen directly to your nose. 

Some people opt for facemasks. These masks cover the entire nose and mouth region. As a result, a higher concentration of oxygen enters your body. 

At times, patients find the oxygen drying. It makes their nose itchy and irritated. A humidifier bottle can be fitted into the device to help with that. It moistens the air with distilled water.

So, when you breathe in, it doesn’t feel as drying. An oxygen concentrator lets you adjust the flow rate, too. However, it’s recommended not to change it without the doctor’s prescription. 

Types of Oxygen Concentrators

There are two types of oxygen concentrators:

  • At-home unit 
  • Portable unit

The portable oxygen concentrator is much smaller and more lightweight than the at-home unit. You can use it outside while traveling. However, since it runs on batteries, patients should make sure to carry extra supplies in case of an emergency. 

Both types can be pretty expensive. You should expect to spend up to $4000 on a new portable version. But, if you can’t afford that, look for a refurbished model, like this Inogen Oxygen Portable Concentrator. 

What is a CPAP Machine?

CPAP is a short form for continuous positive airway pressure. So, a CPAP machine is designed to deliver pressurized air at a constant rate. It is usable for the treatment of Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Central Apnea. 

How Does It Work?

A CPAP machine works somewhat similarly to an oxygen concentrator. Its essential components include:

  • A base unit with motor
  • Plastic tubes
  • Cushioned mask

The base unit is the main machine that compresses the air to create a pressurized stream. This particular stream of air then travels from the base unit to the patient’s mask through the plastic tubes. 

We’ll not call these tubes nasal cannulas because they supply air to the mask. If the supply had been direct to the nose, only then would these tubes have been nasal cannulas. Hopefully, you won’t confuse them now!

The cushioned mask is what the patient wears. It typically covers the entire lower face (nose, mouth, and chin). Moreover, thorough cushioning helps create a seal between the face and the surroundings.

As a result, the continuous stream of pressurized air doesn’t leak, and the patient’s airways remain open. The CPAP machine also prevents your tongue and uvula from shifting way into the air passage. As a result, it prevents choking and fatal consequences. 

Types of  CPAP Machines 

A CPAP machine is a type of Positive Airway Pressure therapy (PAP) machine. However, even in this, you’ll come across different types based on mask style. These include:

Nasal Mask

It covers the nose region, which makes it the best for people who don’t sleep still at night. The risk of mask displacement becomes low. 

Nasal Pillow Mask

It has thin prongs that insert into the nostrils. People who wear spectacles or other face accessories may find it more convenient.

Full-Face Mask

It is a triangular mask that covers the entire face. Although it may feel heavier, the chances of air leakage are none. Doctors recommend it to people who breathe through their mouths often. 

CPAP machines also have portable versions that are lightweight and compact. Patients can use them outside home parameters. 

Oxygen Concentrator VS CPAP Machine: Key Differences 

As mentioned, both an oxygen concentrator and CPAP machine can be used to treat Obstructive Sleep Apnea. However, there are a few differences that you should consider before buying.


An oxygen concentrator collects air from the surroundings and removes nitrogen to create a purified oxygen supply. It’s basically supplemental oxygen for people with breathing difficulties.

Comparatively, a CPAP machine just creates pressure in the collected air and supplies it to the patient at a constant rate. As a result, the airways do not get blocked. 


There’s a considerable price difference between oxygen concentrators and CPAP machines. Since oxygen concentrators make oxygen, they are big and complex machines that cost around $600 to $2000. Meanwhile, a brand new CPAP machine comes as low as $250.

Portable versions are a bit expensive because of the compact designs and rechargeable batteries. A portable oxygen concentrator ranges between $1500 to $4000, whereas travel CPAP machines cost $450 to $1200. 


When left untreated, Obstructive Sleep Apnea can decrease your lifespan by 12 to 15 years. It’s a severe disorder that should not be ignored. If you suffer from OSA, immediately consult a doctor and start using the prescribed treatment.

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