Chronic Hyperventilation Syndrome: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Hyperventilation syndrome is a common occurrence and many people are known to suffer from this respiratory disorder. The condition is characterized by deep and rapid breathing which is usually associated with anxiety and stress. When you breathe you inhale oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. However, as you breathe faster, the carbon dioxide in blood becomes low. It alters the blood chemistry and pH balance giving rise to host of symptoms.

Hyperventilation can occur in anxious person, mouth breathers, frequent sighing and yawning. An acute episode of hyperventilation is easy to spot as it develops during anxiety and stress.

But chronic hyperventilation is baffling as the symptoms are subtle and often missed by physicians as well as the patients.

Chronic hyperventilation significantly affects day to day life of a person. With better management of stress and breathing techniques, chronic hyperventilation syndrome can be treated effectively, although it may take some time.

Causes Of Chronic Hyperventilation Syndrome

There are several triggering factors that contribute to both acute and chronic hyperventilation. These factors can be at physical, emotional and environmental level.

  • It is more common in people who become anxious and stressed during their work, or any situation.
    It may be related to sports activity, public speaking etc.
  • Telephone operators, actors, lawyers and public speakers who have to speak continuously can suffer from chronic hyperventilation. In a way it becomes an occupational hazard for them.
  • People working in noisy places or in dusty atmosphere often suffer from chronic hyperventilation syndrome.
  • Chronic hyperventilation syndrome is common in mouth breathers and asthmatics.

Chronic Hyperventilation Syndrome Symptoms

The symptoms of chronic hyperventilation syndrome are often confusing as they are subtle and often unrecognized by the patient as well as health care provider. Although they develop due to ‘over breathing’ they are not as apparent as those of acute hyperventilation syndrome.

The symptoms mimic other medical conditions and therefore many times unnecessary tests are recommended before the real cause is known to be chronic hyperventilation syndrome. Below are important symptoms of chronic hyperventilation.

  • General feeling of tiredness and lassitude.
  • Disturbance in sleep pattern.
  • Pain in chest and neck.
  • Tingling in arms and around the mouth.
  • Frequent sighing and yawning.
  • Breathing difficulty.
  • Bloating in abdomen.
  • Affects marital life due to sexual problems originating from over breathing.
  • Pain and cramps in muscles.
  • Depression and anxiety.
  • Nausea and other digestive problems.
  • Excessive irritability
  • Erratic rise and lowering of blood pressure.

People suffering from chronic hyperventilation syndrome often suffer a miserable life if the condition remains unrecognized and untreated. They live in fear of the symptoms and lose their self confidence.

Treatment For Chronic Hyperventilation Syndrome

Chronic hyperventilation syndrome is often difficult to diagnose at first as the symptoms mimic various other clinical conditions. However, after diagnosing it thoroughly and recognizing the triggering causes, management becomes easier for the physician.

Two things play important role, such as breathing retraining and addressing stress and anxiety. Patient has to consult a physiotherapist or a respiratory therapist for learning proper breathing techniques. At least half of the problem resolves when patient learns to breathe as advised by the therapist. Patient also needs counseling therapy to reduce anxiety and stress.

Use of anti-anxiolytic and muscle relaxant is beneficial in treating the condition.

The result may be apparent after 6 to 10 weeks of proper relaxation technique and retraining of breathing pattern.