Dizziness or Hyperventilation

Chest | Pulmonology | Dizziness or Hyperventilation (Symptom)


Hyperventilation is represented by over breathing, in which ventilation exceeds the metabolic demand, and its related physiological consequences. Excessive breathing can cause dizziness, light headedness, weakness, shortness of breath, a sense of unsteadiness, muscle spasms in the hands and feet, and a tingling feeling around the mouth and fingertips. All of these symptoms are the result of abnormally low levels of carbon dioxide in the blood caused by over breathing.

Hyperventilation causes an excessive intake of oxygen and elimination of carbon dioxide and may cause hyperoxygenenation. Hyperventilation can happen to anyone. Usually, adults breathe at eight to 16 breaths per minute. A breathing rate exceeding 16 breaths per minute is characteristic of either hyperventilation or tachypnea (rapid shallow breathing). While tachypnea and hyperventilation are sometimes considered to be the same, hyperventilation is usually related to stress or anxiety.


Stress or anxiety are common causes of hyperventilation. This is also known as hyperventilation syndrome. Hyperventilation can also be brought about voluntarily, by taking many deep breaths in rapid succession. Hyperventilation can also occur as a consequence of various lung diseases, head injury, or stroke and various lifestyle causes. In the case of metabolic acidosis, the body uses hyperventilation as a compensatory mechanism to decrease acidity of the blood. In the setting of diabetic ketoacidosis, this is known as Kussmaul breathing - characterized by long, deep breaths.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Treatment for hyperventilation is aimed at increasing carbon dioxide levels in the blood, usually by adjusting your breathing rate. In serious cases, medication may be required to treat hyperventilation. Psychological counseling has been shown to benefit patients with anxiety or panic disorders that lead to hyperventilation.


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