How to diagnose chronic hyperventilation
A doctor has, in addition to recording your symptoms, various methods available to determine chronic hyperventilation. Unfortunately, most doctors are unaware of that these methods can be used to determine the condition. Possible methods are blood tests, urine tests, Electromyography (EMG), electroencephalography (EEG), electrocardiography (ECG) and capnography testing (also see research).
The problem with properly diagnosing hyperventilation
People reporting phobic fears are often proved to be suffering from chronic hyperventilation. And most people that are hyperventilating also suffer from some sort of phobic fears. Sometimes they also have profound hypochondria (a fear of illnesses). This usually shows after the first hyperventilation attack.
Unfortunately, patients are usually vague in reporting their symptoms to their doctor. They often make a nervous impression and find it hard to explain to their doctor what they feel exactly. This is partly due to the reduced functionality of the central nervous system caused by hyperventilation (see initial explanation of chronic hyperventilation). Doctors are often unfamiliar with the complete picture of hyperventilation and are not aware of the psychosocial situation of their patient. The highly alarmed patient, in combination with the lack of diagnosis by the doctor, makes it hard to diagnose chronic hyperventilation syndrome accurately.
The frustrations of both patient and doctor
The doctor would often like to reassure the patient by telling the patient nothing is wrong, it’s probably nerves, or some unusual strain. The patient often feels he/she is accused of overreacting and wasting the valuable time of his/her family physician. Some even feel that the doctor thinks the patient is lazy or looking for an easy way to call in sick. But the patient’s concern for their health grows, leading to an increasingly large appeal for medical care. The doctor often considers this as inadequate or hysterical behavior of the patient. It leads to a long, pointless and frustrating process for both parties involved.
A proper diagnosis
A doctor trained in identifying chronic hyperventilation can quickly spot certain symptoms that will lead him to the correct diagnosis. A well-known method is requesting the patient to breathe less than 12 times per minute. This test quickly produces the symptoms that the patient would like to report. This also establishes the relationship between the respiration and the symptoms. Another method is for the patient to hold his breath as long as possible. Typically the hyperventilating patient cannot hold his breath for even 1 minute, although this also depends on the lung capacity and general physical condition of the patient. But the doctor’s office is usually not the ideal place for such tests.