Hyperventilation (rapid breathing)

Chest | Pulmonology | Hyperventilation (rapid breathing) (Disease)


The term hyperventilation syndrome evolved from the more descriptive psychogenic hyperventilation syndrome, which indicates a psychosomatic cause for the hyperventilation. Basically, that means there is usually some sort of behavioral or emotional reason for the hyperventilation. In most cases, hyperventilation goes hand-in-hand with anxiety or panic disorders.

Causes and Risk factors

Many of the symptoms of hyperventilation syndrome appear during what are commonly called panic attacks. There are other, more serious, medical conditions that may lead to hyperventilation. The most serious is related to an increase of pressure inside the skull (intracranial pressure). The increased pressure pushes the brain through the foramen magnum, the opening in the base of the skull where the spinal cord exits. This is called herniation of the brain and leads to neurogenic hyperventilation syndrome, an involuntary reaction of the respiratory centers in the brain to increases in pressure.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Several tests are undertaken to determine why the patient is breathing too fast. Treatment includes reversing the cause of the rapid breathing, and anti-anxiety medications such as benzodiazepines. ...