What Is Hyperpnea?

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  • Written By: Meshell Powell
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 01 February 2020
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Hyperpnea is a medical term used to describe a prolonged period of increased respiratory effort. This condition is often worse after exercise or other physical exertion, although it may develop in patients with anemia or those who have been exposed to high altitudes. There are a variety of potential causes for this type of deep breathing and include both voluntary and involuntary factors. Some of the most commonly reported symptoms of hyperpnea include deep, labored breathing and noticeable chest expansion when inhaling. Any specific questions or concerns about hyperpnea in an individual situation should be discussed with a doctor or other medical professional.

There are several potential causes of hyperpnea, including physical exertion, respiratory illnesses, or gastrointestinal disturbances. Neurological, metabolic, or psychological disorders may also cause this type of breathing disorder. Voluntary hyperpnea may occur in cases where deep breathing is encouraged, such as when a pregnant woman is in labor. Stressful or painful situations may also lead to this type of breathing.

Most patients experiencing hyperpnea breath at either a normal rate or a slightly increased rate, although breathing may be a bit deeper than normal, causing a noticeable expansion of the chest when inhaling. Hyperventilation is a common complication of this type of breathing pattern. Symptoms of hyperventilation include rapid breathing, dizziness, and confusion. A doctor should be consulted in cases of uncontrolled hyperventilation in order to prevent the development of serious complications.


Metabolic acidosis is a medical condition that often exists alongside involuntary hyperpnea. This illness occurs as a result of an overproduction of acid or when the kidneys do not function well enough to efficiently rid the body of acid. A variety of potential causes for metabolic acidosis exist, including the use of certain medications, physical illness, or alcohol abuse. Symptoms may include lethargy, rapid breathing, and confusion. Intravenous medications known as bicarbonates or kidney dialysis may be used to treat this disorder.

Treatment for hyperpnea depends on the underlying cause. In many cases, the breathing problems are worsened by inadequate sleep or medical conditions such as sleep apnea. Sleep studies are often performed to see if there are any sleep disorders present. Prescription medications, oxygen therapy, or other forms of breathing assistance may be beneficial for many people. A series of diagnostic testing is frequently performed in order to rule out any serious medical conditions before the doctor and patient devise an individualized treatment plan.


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Post 3

@pleonasm - It's funny you mention your nephews and nieces. I have a nephew who is slightly asthmatic. Sometimes he can get quite bad though.

And we usually don't have much notice of when he's going to get really bad, except that he'll start with the hyperpnea. In fact, that's what the doctor called it, but it's really just breathing a bit faster and deeper than usual.

He'll be running around, and he'll start to breath a bit more deeply than usual and we know we have to give him his puffer to make sure nothing more happens.

Post 2

@bythewell - I had kind of the same thing. I wasn't really overweight, but I was quite a heavy smoker for a while.

And it was really making my lungs bad. I would get breathless just walking up a small set of stairs.

It was really making me ashamed of myself. Especially since I had little nieces and nephews who were bouncing up and down those stairs without even pausing, let along getting hyperpnea.

So, I decided to give up the cigarettes.

And I actually used the hyperpnea to my advantage. I started exercising, and every time I was at the hardest part, and my breath was coming hard, I would think to myself, want a cigarette now? How would it feel to breath that smoke in right now? And the idea of it was almost scary. Made sure I never went back to them.

Post 1

I used to be really unfit and once, after climbing a very tall hill too quickly, I just could not catch my breath.

I guess the term hyperpnea applies to any time you are breathing more heavily than normal. In this case I almost felt like I couldn't breath properly at all.

My friend rushed off to get his asthma inhaler. It was so embarrassing. Luckily, by the time he got back I was feeling much better. But, I remember how scary it was.

It actually gave me the reason to try and increase my fitness. The next time I climbed that hill, I only had normal hyperapnea at the top, and I felt much better for it!

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