Hyperventilation is breathing in excess of what the body needs. This is sometimes called overbreathing. Rapid or deep breathing is sometimes seen in very serious conditions such as infection, bleeding, or heart attack.
Hyperventilation syndrome is more specific and relates to an overbreathing pattern that happens under certain conditions. This overbreathing results in a group of symptoms.
Although hyperventilation syndrome may seem very similar to panic attacks, the two disorders are different.
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The cause or causes of hyperventilation syndrome are unknown. Certain conditions or situations produce overbreathing in some people.
Sudden and everyday are the two forms of hyperventilation syndrome. In its everyday form, the overbreathing may be hard to detect. The sudden form comes on rapidly and has more intense symptoms. People with this syndrome may have stomach, chest, nervous system, and emotional complaints.
Hyperventilation syndrome may result in swallowing excessive air. This results in the following abdominal symptoms:
Chemical changes can happen with overbreathing. Hyperventilation causes the carbon dioxide level in the blood to decrease. This lower level of carbon dioxide reduces blood flow to the brain, which may result in the following nervous system and emotional symptoms:
Overbreathing can also cause the calcium levels to drop in your blood, which may result in the following nervous system symptoms:
Many different factors can cause chest symptoms with hyperventilation syndrome. Normally, breathing is relaxed. If a person over breathes, the lungs become overinflated. Without thinking about it, the person might use the chest muscles to expand the rib cage. This extra muscle work will feel like shortness of breath, and the person will have difficulty taking a deep breath. The chest muscles will become tired, just like the legs tire after a long run. The lowered carbon dioxide levels in the blood can cause squeezing of the airways, which then results in wheezing. Hyperventilation syndrome may cause the following chest symptoms:
The doctor will make sure that the person isn't suffering a heart attack by considering the following:
Last Reviewed 11/17/2017
Ira H Tilles, MD
Kimberly A Sing, MD
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