Hyperventilation refers to overbreathing, in which ventilation exceeds the metabolic demand, and its related physiological consequences. Excessive breathing can cause dizziness, lightheadedness, weakness, shortness of breath, a sense of unsteadiness, muscle spasms in the hands and feet, and a tingling feeling around the mouth and fingertips. All of these symptoms are the result of abnormally low levels of carbon dioxide in the blood caused by overbreathing.
The term hyperventilation syndrome (HVS) is sometimes used to describe the effects of hyperventilation observed in an emergency department setting. Many acute (sudden onset) cases of hyperventilation arise from panic, anxiety, and other emotional conditions. Hyperventilation, particularly chronic hyperventilation (that persists over time), can also be due to a range of medical conditions.
The opposite of hyperventilation is termed hypoventilation (underventilation).
Related Symptoms & Signs
Other causes of hyperventilation
- Acute Pain
- Chest Wall Injury
- Central Nervous System Disturbances
- Drug Overdose
- Lactic Acidosis
- Metabolic Acidosis
- Mountain Sickness
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Causes of Hyperventilation
Anemia is the condition of having less than the normal number of red blood cells or less than the normal quantity of hemoglobin in the blood. The oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood is, therefore, decreased. There are several types of anemia such as iron deficiency anemia (the most common type), sickle cell anemia, vitamin B12 anemia, pernicious anemia, and aplastic anemia. Symptoms of anemia may include fatigue, malaise, hair loss, palpitations, menstruation, and medications. Treatment for anemia includes treating the underlying cause for the condition. Iron supplements, vitamin B12 injections, and certain medications may also be necessary.
Anxiety is a feeling of apprehension and fear characterized by symptoms such as trouble concentrating, headaches, sleep problems, and irritability. Anxiety disorders are serious medical illnesses that affect approximately 19 million American adults. Treatment for anxiety may incorporate medications and psychotherapy.
Asthma is a condition in which hyperreactive airways constrict and result in symptoms like wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath. Causes of asthma include genetics, environmental factors, personal history of allergies, and other factors. Asthma is diagnosed by a physician based on a patient's family history and results from lung function tests and other exams. Inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) and long-acting bronchodilators (LABAs) are used in the treatment of asthma. Generally, the prognosis for a patient with asthma is good. Exposure to allergens found on farms may protect against asthma symptoms.
Collapsed Lung (Pneumothorax)
A pneumothorax is air in the chest outside the lung that causes the lung to collapse (collapsed lung). There are two types of pneumothorax, spontaneous or primary pneumothorax and secondary pneumothorax. Symptoms include sudden chest pain, shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, rapid breathing, cough, and fatigue.
Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)
Congestive heart failure (CHF) refers to a condition in which the heart loses the ability to function properly. Heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, myocarditis, and cardiomyopathies are just a few potential causes of congestive heart failure. Signs and symptoms of congestive heart failure may include fatigue, breathlessness, palpitations, angina, and edema. Physical examination, patient history, blood tests, and imaging tests are used to diagnose congestive heart failure. Treatment of heart failure consists of lifestyle modification and taking medications to decrease fluid in the body and ease the strain on the heart. The prognosis of a patient with congestive heart failure depends on the stage of the heart failure and the overall condition of the individual.
COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)
COPD or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a lung condition caused by smoking tobacco, exposure to secondhand smoke, and/or air pollutants. Conditions that accompany COPD include chronic bronchitis, chronic cough, and emphysema. Symptoms of COPD include shortness of breath, wheezing, and chronic cough. Treatment of COPD includes GOLD guidelines, smoking cessation, medications, and surgery. The life expectancy of a person with COPD depends on the stage of the disease.
Costochondritis and Tietze Syndrome
Costochondritis is inflammation of the cartilage where the ribs attach to the sternum. Tietze syndrome affects the same region of the chest and causes inflammation, tenderness, and swelling. Anti-inflammatory medications, rest, physical therapy, and cortisone injections are suitable methods of treatment for both costochondritis and Tietze syndrome.
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT, Blood Clot in the Legs)
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot in the deep veins, and can be caused by broken bones, trauma to a limb, immobility, medications, smoking, cancer, genetic predisposition, and cancer. Symptoms and signs of a deep vein thrombosis in a leg are swelling, tenderness, redness, warmth, and pain. Treatments for DVT include medications and surgery.
Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is a complication of type 1 diabetes that is life threatening. If a person thinks they may have diabetic ketoacidosis they should seek medical care immediately. Diabetic ketoacidosis happens when a person's insulin levels in the blood become dangerously low. Symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis include dehydration, abdominal pain, confusion, and nausea and vomiting. Diabetic ketoacidosis needs medical treatment. It cannot be treated at home.
Although a fever technically is any body temperature above the normal of 98.6 F (37 C), in practice, a person is usually not considered to have a significant fever until the temperature is above 100.4 F (38 C). Fever is part of the body's own disease-fighting arsenal; rising body temperatures apparently are capable of killing off many disease-producing organisms.
Heart Attack (Myocardial Infarction)
A heart attack occurs when a blood clot completely obstructs a coronary artery supplying blood to the heart muscle. Learn about warning signs, causes, complications, risk factors, and treatment.
Hyperthyroidism is an excess of thyroid hormone due to an overactive thyroid gland. Symptoms can include increased heart rate, weight loss, heart palpitations, frequent bowel movements, depression, fatigue, fine or brittle hair, sleep problems, thinning skin, and irregular vaginal bleeding. Graves' disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism. Many other health problems or taking excess thyroid hormone medication can cause an overactive thyroid gland. Treatment for the condition is with medication, radioactive iodine, thyroid surgery (rarely), or reducing the dose of thyroid hormone. No diet has been shown to treat hyperthyroidism or its symptoms and signs.
Panic attacks are sudden feelings of terror that strike without warning. These episodes can occur at any time, even during sleep. A person experiencing a panic attack may believe that he or she is having a heart attack or that death is imminent. The fear and terror that a person experiences during a panic attack are not in proportion to the true situation and may be unrelated to what is happening around them. Most people with panic attacks experience several of the following symptoms: racing heartbeat, faintness, dizziness, numbness or tingling in the hands and fingers, chills, chest pains, difficulty breathing, and a feeling of loss or control. There are several treatments for panic attacks.
Pleural Effusion (Fluid in the Pleural Space)
Pleural effusion is a buildup of fluid in the chest or the lungs. There are two types of pleural effusion, transudate, and exudate. Causes of transudate pleural effusion include congestive heart failure, kidney failure, and cirrhosis. Exudate pleural effusion can be caused by malignancy (cancer) or a lung infection. Typically, transudate pleural effusion is more easily treatable. Symptoms of pleural effusion include chest pain, pain when breathing, difficulty breathing, and cough. Treatment depends on the source or cause of the pleural effusion.
Pneumonia is inflammation of the lungs caused by fungi, bacteria, or viruses. Symptoms and signs include cough, fever, shortness of breath, and chills. Antibiotics treat pneumonia, and the choice of the antibiotic depends upon the cause of the infection.
Pulmonary edema, or fluid in the lungs, can cause symptoms such as shortness of breath. Learn about causes, diagnosis complications, treatment, and prevention.
Sepsis (Blood Poisoning)
Sepsis (blood poisoning) is a potentially deadly infection with signs and symptoms that include elevated heart rate, low or high temperature, rapid breathing and/or a white blood cell count that is too high or too low and has more than 10% band cells. Most cases of sepsis are caused by bacterial infections, and some cases are caused by fungal infections. Treatment requires hospitalization, IV antibiotics, and therapy to treat any organ dysfunction.
What is shock? A life-threatening condition with symptoms like low blood pressure, weakness, shallow breathing, clammy skin, fainting, anxiety, confusion, and chest pain. Learn about causes, types, and treatment.
Stress is a normal part of life, but chronic or severe stress can be harmful to your health. Learn what happens in your body when you are stressed and how you can manage your response.
A stroke is an interruption of the blood supply to part of the brain caused by either a blood clot (ischemic) or bleeding (hemorrhagic). Symptoms of a stroke may include weakness, numbness, double vision or vision loss, confusion, vertigo, difficulty speaking, or understanding speech. A physical exam, imaging tests, neurological exam, and blood tests may be used to diagnose a stroke. Treatment may include administration of clot-busting drugs, supportive care, and in some instances, neurosurgery. The risk of stroke can be reduced by controlling high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and stopping smoking.
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