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Hyperventilation: What Are Its Underlying Symptoms?

Hyperventilation: What Are Its Underlying Symptoms?

Stress is an inevitable part of life. And during stressful times, some may experience symptoms of hyperventilation. It is important to know these symptoms to provide immediate aid for anyone who is hyperventilating. Hyperventilation, or overbreathing, can lead to low levels of carbon dioxide in the blood and make you feel faint or light-headed.

What Is Hyperventilation?

Hyperventilation is a type of breathing condition, wherein you push more air through your chest deeper and more than your body can handle.

Breathing this way reduces the amount of carbon dioxide(CO2) in the bloodstream. You may feel symptoms of hyperventilation such as lightheadedness with a quick heartbeat or even shortness of breath as a result of this decline. Side effects include numbness in the hands or feet, anxiousness, dizziness, and tight chest muscles.

Most people may experience “overbreathing” due to stress or over-excitement, which is a common reaction to such situations.

A doctor can diagnose a person who suffers from hyperventilation through a complete medical history. Other illnesses or diseases may be ruled out as possible causes of your symptoms.

Immediate treatment can take place by doing necessary measures to normalize the breathing rate and bring back the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the body. This can be done on your own by breathing through pursed lips, or breathing slowly into a paper bag.

Causes of Hyperventilation

Hyperventilation is the body’s way of indicating that something is wrong. Physical, emotional, and environmental variables are all potential triggers. These can cause the body to feel different kinds of physical sensations and changes.

Stress is one of the main causes of hyperventilation. This results in anxiety and panic attacks.

Other known causes are:

  • Dusty or noisy work environments
  • Anemia (due to the insufficiency of red blood cells carrying oxygen in the blood)
  • Illness or prolonged physical stress after surgery
  • Asthma (chronic mouth-breathers)
  • Hormonal triggers such as CO2 dropping by up to 25% during post-ovulation, pregnancy, and menopausal stages

symptoms of hyperventilation

Symptoms of Hyperventilation

Symptoms of hyperventilation may be different for every person but the common ones are categorically listed down below:

Respiratory symptoms of hyperventilation

  • Breathlessness
  • Chest tightening
  • Frequent sighing
  • Rapid breathing

Tetanic symptoms of hyperventilation

  • Tingling sensation in the fingers, arms, and mouth area
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Hand trembles

Cerebral symptoms of hyperventilation

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Faintness

Cardiac symptoms of hyperventilation

  • Palpitations
  • Rapid heartbeat (tachycardia)

Temperature symptoms of hyperventilation

  • Cold hands or feet
  • Shivering
  • Warm feeling in the head

Gastrointestinal symptoms of hyperventilation

  • Abdominal pain
  • Sickness

General symptoms of hyperventilation

  • Tension
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia

Hypocapnia is a condition in which the amount of carbon dioxide in the blood is dangerously low. It has the potential to disrupt the blood’s acid-base balance, which can lead to issues including fainting and seizures. Moreover, both hyperventilation and hypocapnia can bring about other possible complications.

Prevention

There are several ways how hyperventilation can be prevented. Some easy and practical techniques can be done from the comfort of your home, such as doing breathing exercises. It may also help if you try to incorporate a healthy lifestyle by exercising regularly in order to deal with stress.

Your family members can also take part in hyperventilation prevention by providing reassurance. Simple words of encouragement can relax your breathing.

Your medical doctor may also prescribe medications and other treatments that may assist you to manage the condition. Make sure to always update your doctor about your status.

Key Takeaways

The body has its own ways of reacting to the different stressors around us. It may look different in every person’s case. Recognizing the underlying symptoms of hyperventilation is necessary for immediate treatment as well as planning how to manage it for the future. Doing exercises for breathing and general health can hep to fight stress in your body and mind.

Learn more about Other Respiratory Issues here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Hyperventilation Syndrome – Fact Sheet, http://www.dchs.nhs.uk/assets/public/dchs/services_we_provide/service-directory/our-services/health-psychology/Information-sheets/stress&anxiety/Hyperventilation%20Syndrome.pdf, Accessed September 23, 2021

Hyperventilation, https://www.healthnavigator.org.nz/health-a-z/h/hyperventilation/, Accessed September 23, 2021

Hyperventilation – Fact Sheet, https://www.yeovilhospital.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Hyperventilation.pdf, Accessed September 23, 2021

Hyperventilation, https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/hypvn, Accessed September 23, 2021

Hyperventilation, https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/hyperventilation, Accessed September 23, 2021

Understanding Hyperventilation Syndrome, https://www.saintlukeskc.org/health-library/understanding-hyperventilation-syndrome, Accessed September 23, 2021

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Written by Fiel Tugade Updated 4 weeks ago
Medically reviewed by Janie-Vi Villamor Ismael-Gorospe, MD