What causes hyperventilation?

Generally, hyperventilation occurs due to stress, anxiety or panic. It may also be related to a pulmonary (lung) condition or cardiac (heart) condition, blood loss, pain, or side effects from certain medications.

Psychological causes of hyperventilation

Generally, hyperventilation is a symptom of a psychological disturbance including:

  • Anxiety
  • Nervousness
  • Panic
  • Somatization disorder (physical symptoms for which no cause can be found)
  • Stress
  • Strong emotion, such as anger or depression

Cardiac and pulmonary causes of hyperventilation

Hyperventilation may also arise from a problem with the heart, circulatory system, lungs, or respiratory system such as:

  • Asthma and allergies
  • Bleeding
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD, includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis)
  • Congestive heart failure (deterioration of the heart’s ability to pump blood)
  • Myocardial infarction (heart attack)
  • Pneumonia
  • Pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lung)

Other causes of hyperventilation

Hyperventilation may also result from a variety of other problems related to other body systems including:

  • Diabetic ketoacidosis (life-threatening complication of diabetes)
  • Drug abuse
  • Infections
  • Medication side effects
  • Pain
  • Pregnancy
  • Stimulant overuse

What are the risk factors for hyperventilation?

A number of factors increase the risk of developing hyperventilation. Not all people with risk factors will get hyperventilation. Risk factors include:

  • Certain medications such as stimulants
  • Family history of anxiety or panic attacks
  • Panic disorder such as phobia
  • Personal medical history of anxiety or panic attacks
  • Stress

Reducing your risk of hyperventilation

If you have hyperventilated before or are prone to hyperventilation, you may benefit from reducing your stress level and learning to cope with anxiety or rapid breathing. You may be able to lower your risk of hyperventilation by:

  • Engaging in regular physical activity
  • Learning breathing techniques
  • Practicing relaxation techniques
  • Telling family and friends what to say to calm you down when you begin hyperventilating

What is hyperventilation?

Hyperventilation, or overbreathing, is a condition in which you breathe too quickly or deeply. Usually, hyperventilation occurs with anxiety. Overbreathing can cause imbalances in the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your blood. These imbalances can make you feel breathless, dizzy, light-headed, confused or weak.

Along with rapid breathing, other symptoms of hyperventilation m... Read more about hyperventilationintroduction


What are the symptoms of hyperventilation?

Symptoms of hyperventilation are related to having too little carbon dioxide in the blood. Breathing too quickly reduces the normal amount of carbon dioxide in the bloodstream. This interferes with the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your body. Having an improper balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide can lead to many generalized symptoms, including weakness, Read more about hyperventilationsymptoms


How is hyperventilation treated?

Hyperventilation is treated by increasing the amount of carbon dioxide in the blood. This can usually be accomplished by changing breathing patterns. In serious cases, medication may be required to treat hyperventilation. Patient education and behavior modification are essential pillars in the treatment of hyperventilation and prevention of recurrent episodes. Psychological counseling has ... Read more about hyperventilationtreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 23, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Lungs, Breathing and Respiration

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