Hyperpnea: Causes and Treatment Options

What is Hyperpnea?

Breathing more air than a person usually does in known as hyperpnea. It happens in response to the body’s requirement for more oxygen.

A person might require more oxygen while exercising, when he is ill, or at a high altitude. As we breathe in, more oxygen from the air, it goes to the lungs. The blood passing through the lungs distribute the oxygen to cells throughout the body. The cells in the body use oxygen for energy.

What is Hyperpnea?

A normal breathing rate is 12-20 breaths per minute, at rest.(1) Breathing is an automatic process controlled by the autonomic nervous system. When the brain senses that the body needs more oxygen the breathing rate increases.

Hyperpnea means taking deeper breaths. It is the body’s response to the signals from the brain to adjust the breathing. Deeper breaths increase oxygen intake.

It can also be done deliberately as a calming technique to adjust breathing in those with lung disease.

What Causes Hyperpnea?

Hyperpnea is a normal response to the activity or an environment. It can also be related to a disease.

A few situations which can lead to hyperpnea are:

Exercise

After any physical activity, hyperpnea occurs as the body demands more oxygen. A person automatically starts breathing deeply after an exercise.

Exercise is the most frequent situation for hyperpnea to occur.

High Altitude

On reaching a high attitude, hyperpnea occurs as a normal response of the body to increase the oxygen intake.

Low air pressure at high altitudes results in low oxygen saturation in the blood.

Hiking, skiing, or doing any activity at a high altitude would require even more oxygen.

Anemia

Anemia decreases the ability of blood to transport oxygen to the cells. This increases the demand for oxygen leads to hyperpnea.

Cold Air Exposure

Getting exposed to cold outdoor temperature or being in air-conditioned rooms, can lead to hyperpnea.

Asthma

Asthma causes shortness of breath which can lead to hyperpnea.

A study showed that exercises involving hyperpnea helped in improving lung and airway problems related to asthma.(2)

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease can lead to hyperpnea.

Controlled hyperpnea can help improve the respiratory muscle of people with COPD(3)

Metabolic Acidosis

Too much acid build-up in the body fluids is known as metabolic acidosis. It can lead to hyperpnea.

Panic Disorder

During panic attacks, hyperpnea occurs(4)

Hyperpnea done deliberately or during exercise is not at all dangerous.

Some people who do strenuous exercise or work in cold temperatures for long can develop bronchoconstriction which can narrow the air passage. Mostly this condition goes away on stopping exercise, but one should consult a doctor if it becomes chronic. Those with asthma or any other lung condition should take care that their exercise does not trigger bronchoconstriction.

Treatment for Hyperpnea

Hyperpnea is usually a normal symptom and does not require any treatment.

In case, there is an underlying condition causing it, treatment is done to get over with it.

If there is any heart condition, lung condition, infection or acidosis that is limiting the oxygen, the doctor treats that condition.

Conclusion

Hyperpnea is a normal response to any physical activity or exertion. It can also result from a medical condition that affects the body’s ability to take up oxygen.

The treatment of hyperpnea depends on the underlying cause. It is best to consult a doctor for the same.

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