Hyperventilation is breathing that is deeper
and more rapid than normal. It causes a decrease in the amount of a gas in the
blood (called carbon dioxide, or CO2). This decrease may make you feel
lightheaded, have a rapid heartbeat, and be short of breath. It also can lead
to numbness or tingling in your hands or feet,
anxiety, fainting, and sore chest muscles.
Some causes of sudden hyperventilation include anxiety, fever, some
medicines, intense exercise, and emotional
stress. Hyperventilation also can occur because of
problems caused by asthma or emphysema or after a head injury. But it occurs
most often in people who are nervous or tense, breathe shallowly, and have
other medical conditions, such as lung diseases or
panic disorder. Women experience hyperventilation more
often than men. Most people who have problems with hyperventilation are 15 to 55 years old. Hyperventilation may occur when people travel to
elevations over 6000 ft (2000 m). Symptoms can be similar to symptoms that are caused by another,
more serious medical problem, such as a lung problem.
hyperventilation is usually triggered by acute stress, anxiety, or emotional
upset. Chronic (recurring) hyperventilation may be an ongoing problem for
people with other diseases, such as asthma, emphysema, or lung cancer.
Many women have problems with hyperventilation during pregnancy, but it
usually goes away on its own after delivery.
In many cases,
hyperventilation can be controlled by learning proper breathing
Symptoms of hyperventilation
hyperventilation usually last 20 to 30 minutes and may include:
- Feeling anxious, nervous, or
- Frequent sighing or yawning.
- Feeling that you
can't get enough air (air hunger) or need to sit up to breathe.
pounding and racing heartbeat.
- Problems with balance,
- Numbness or tingling in the
hands, feet, or around the mouth.
- Chest tightness, fullness,
pressure, tenderness, or pain.
Other symptoms may occur less frequently, and you may not
realize they are directly related to hyperventilation. These symptoms can
Hyperventilation is not a disease, but you may need to be
checked by your doctor if you have repeated episodes of hyperventilation
symptoms. If you have recurring symptoms, you might be diagnosed with a
condition called hyperventilation syndrome (HVS).
hyperventilation depends on the cause. Home treatment is usually all that is
needed for mild hyperventilation symptoms. Medical treatment may be needed for
hyperventilation symptoms that are moderate to severe, that last for long
periods of time, that come back, or that
interfere with your daily activities. Medical
treatment usually includes reassurance, stress reduction measures, breathing
lessons, or medicine.
Check your symptoms to decide
if and when you should see a doctor.