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Chronic Hyperventilation Syndrome

Okay, so there's this thing called Chronic Hyperventilation Syndrome which few doctors seem able to diagnose, but which causes lots of people a lot of unhappiness. I was one of those people. It sucked. I'm doing better now, but I figure I'd like to help any others who might be suffering some of the same horribleness.


The biggest clue to Chronic Hyperventilation Syndrome is the presence of vague dizziness accompanied by a lot of other seemingly unrelated symptoms, which might include any of the following:

If several of these symptoms sound familiar, ask your doctor about Chronic Hyperventilation Syndrome. If she's never heard of it, ask her to find out about it. If she seems reluctant, research online (I've listed some useful links below) and inform her.

Why So Many Weird Symptoms?

My understanding of this syndrome is far from perfect, as I am not a doctor. I am only a sufferer of this disorder who has done some research, but I'll do my best to share with you what I think I've learned. I highly recommend that you consult the links below, and talk to your own personal physician, to get more reliable information.

As it was explained to me, Chronic Hyperventilation Syndrome constantly and slowly depletes your blood of carbon dioxide. With too little carbon dioxide in the blood, receptors that should be bonding with CO2 end up bonding with oxygen instead. Ironically, your blood ends up having too little free oxygen available to your body's systems and organs.

As a result, all of your body's systems receive too little oxygen. That means your brain, your stomach, your muscles ... they're all getting slightly deprived of oxygen. As a result, you start having seemily unrelated symptoms in all these different areas of the body. Your doctor might send you to a gazillion specialists, trying to figure out what's wrong with your ears, or your stomach, or your brain. I, myself, was sent -- over the course of 7 months or so of doctoral confusion -- to an ear doctor, an allergist, and a neurologist before they finally figured out what was going on. Some people with HVS go through a lot more intrusive and expensive tests than I did.

What the doctors are missing in these cases is the BIG PICTURE: the fact that the patient has several systems going slightly haywire ... probably from one source. And that source in this case is the oxygen-depleted blood.

So What Do You Do About It?

Opinions on treatment for Chronic Hyperventilation Syndrome vary, because opinions on the causes vary widely, as well. Some doctors believe HVS is caused by anxiety. Others believe anxiety is understandably caused by your body's constant yet unconscious fear of impending suffocation. I personally think they're probably both right, and that some sort of vicious cycle gets started, in which the HVS and anxiety feed off each other.

So, anyway, some of the recommended treatments I've seen discussed include:

This isn't a complete list, but it's what I remember off the top of my head. My own personal opinion is that the ideal treatment might be different for each person who suffers from HVS, and most would probably benefit best from some coordinated combination of the above treatments. But that's just my opinion. Personally, I never had enough money to try biofeedback, but all of the rest factored into my own way of dealing with HVS and eventually becoming relatively healthy again. I doubt that any of these treatments would have worked for me in isolation.

Resources for Chronic Hyperventilation Syndrome

I'm just a random person who suffered from HVS, so the info I've given here is no substitute for listening to the experts. Of course, the main thing I recommend, again, is that you go to talk to your personal physician. But I've listed below some of the other resources I found useful.

Informational Websites

Here are some of the websites I've found on the topic of Chronic Hyperventilation Syndrome (sometimes abbreviated CHS or HVS). I'm not personally vouching for the quality of the information on any of these sites, but you might find them useful. I did.

Some Recommended Other Media

I think these are all available on Amazon, but I would urge you to buy from your local independent bookstore instead, if you can. Otherwise, you might also try Powell's Books. They're far less evil than Amazon (and they give free shipping for orders over $50).



- Kimberly, January 2, 2002