Hyperventilation Syndrome (HVS)
Hyperventilation is a breathing pattern disorder (BPD) of over breathing often in response to physical, environmental or psychological stimuli. The stimulus overrides normal breathing pattern impulses which are tuned to maintain specific carbon dioxide levels within the blood. During hyperventilation, the rate of carbon dioxide exhaled exceeds the normal rate. As a result the pH of the blood increases (respiratory alkalosis) leading to reduced oxygenation of the tissues. This results in a decrease of oxygen to the brain, smooth muscle constriction, heightened pain perception, increased stress response and changes in calcium and magnesium levels of the blood. Hyperventilation is often overlooked in clinical settings as a cause for many symptoms of unknown origin. It is estimated that 10% of people who present themselves to doctor’s offices suffer from HVS.
Acute Hyperventilation Syndrome is less common though more easily detected than chronic HVS. Acute HVS is often identified as breathlessness or the inability to catch one’s breath. Symptoms of Acute HVS are often more dramatic than Chronic HVS and may include breathlessness or the inability to catch one’s breath, agitation, rapid and/or deep breathing, chest pain, dizziness, heart palpitations and loss of consciousness. Acute stress or anxiety often produces acute hyperventilation. The effects of hyperventilation can range from loss of consciousness to parasthesia, a loss of sensation or tingling in the body (sometimes mistaken for a stroke). This effects seems to be exacerbated by a combination of hyperventilation and low blood sugar.
Chronic Hyperventilation Syndrome, although quite common, often remains undetected due to lack of awareness. Chronic HVS does not have a number of obvious signs and symptoms yet it frequently leads to or propagates a number of conditions - often those typically thought of as conditions the person must simply live with such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Anxiety, non-cardiac related chest pain and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. This breathing pattern is often learned early in life generally in response to a prolonged amount of stress. The symptoms typically associated with chronic HVS include faintness, dizziness, and visual disturbances. Chronic HVS is due to exaggerated upper thoracic movement as the diaphragm is not engaged. It contributes to erratic breathing or breathing that is irregular in rate or rhythm. It contributes to frequent sighs, and audible expirations. Typically with HVS the rate of breath is 20 breaths per minute or greater.