Hyperventilation: Symptoms & Signs

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Related Symptoms & Signs

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).

REFERENCE:

Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/2/2017
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