Even the most calm and composed people experience hyperventilation at some point in time. Your symptoms will begin with a feeling of extreme stress. You might then begin to breathe more rapidly and deeply, and you may experience tightness in your chest. People will feel numbness and tingling in the extremities and might even experience a fainting spell.
Hyperventilation, also known as overbreathing, is rapid breathing that may occur due to anxiety or panic. The end result can leave a person feeling breathless, gasping for air at an increased rate. The rapid breathing reduces the amount of carbon dioxide in your blood, and you may experience an accelerated heartbeat which will cause additional shortness of breath. While most cases of hyperventilation are the result of high anxiety or a panic attack, it can also be an indicator for the following conditions:
There are two types of hyperventilation:
Symptoms of hyperventilation may last up to 20 or 30 minutes, and can include:
Those who frequently suffer from such symptoms and episodes of panic attacks and high anxiety are most likely suffering from chronic hyperventilation.
Hyperventilation may be caused by extreme emotional stress, anxiety, fever, medications and even intense exercise. Other risk factors include cardiac disorders, infections, sepsis head injuries, asthma, and emphysema. People who suffer panic disorders and lung diseases are more likely to experience episodes of hyperventilation.
Other causes include:
Those who might be suffering from chronic hyperventilation may require special treatment for training in proper breathing methods. They may also be taught how to manage stress, anxiety, panic attacks and other disorders that may be causing hyperventilation syndrome.
A physician will typically start with a physical examination to determine the cause of hyperventilation. He or she may ask a series of questions regarding the type of symptoms, characteristics of the hyperventilation, medications being taken, medical conditions, feelings of anxiety or stress and other questions that can help determine the cause of the condition.
The following tests can also help diagnose episodes of hyperventilation:
A physician will treat hyperventilation based on the cause. Hyperventilation may indicate a more serious medical problem, and you should seek medical help if you experience frequent episodes. The physician will explore other medical conditions in relation to hyperventilation episodes before diagnosing hyperventilation syndrome.
If the physician determines that hyperventilation is being caused by stress, anxiety or panic attacks, he or she might recommend home treatment in the following ways:
For chronic hyperventilation, a physician may recommend the following:
When To Seek Medical Attention
A person should seek immediate, medical attention if any of the following were to occur: