I had the horror of seeing a family member collapsed and unconscious just yesterday. While all sorts of unpleasant thoughts ran through the mind at this time, calling the ambulance was the first reaction. Fortunately, the collapse lasted for under a minute and, as it turned out, was only a ‘fainting episode’. I can’t applaud the paramedics enough and the care given in the hospital emergency department was brilliant, too.
There is only one shortcoming that I could remark on and it is not a new observation. It appears that there is a shortfall in the understanding of breathing-related problems and the related symptoms, specifically hyperventilation.
So in my family member’s story, the person involved was sent home safely cleared of any life threatening medical problem, but none the wiser as to what had really happened to them.
This is a very common scenario and while it is great that we have brilliant emergency care, there does seem to be a gap in diagnosing these problems which can be a real burden on the health system. The symptoms of hyperventilation can be any of the following:
Weakness, fainting, dizziness, confusion, agitation, numbness and tingling (usually in both arms or around the mouth), spasms or cramps of the hands and feet, muscle twitching, chest pains or tenderness, shortness of breath, headaches, dilated pupils and other facial symptoms.
Chronic effects include general tiredness, lack of concentration and sleep disturbances, palpitations, irritable cough and breathing discomfort with frequent sighs and yawns, erratic blood pressure, upset gut, bloated feelings, nausea, sexual problems, achy muscles, tension and panicky feelings, depression and anxiety. As you may realise, some of these symptoms are also seen during life threatening events such as a heart attack. The first action should be to phone 111 if you are having the symptoms of a heart attack.
Unfortunately, there are many folks with Hyperventilation Syndrome (HVS) that do not know they have the problem, let alone what they can do about it. But worse, some people can suffer for years with a severely compromised life if this is not diagnosed accurately and appropriate treatment given. But the good news is that this is an entirely treatable condition that can be completely resolved with some professional advice and treatment. More often than not, the treatment is entirely natural and mostly a matter of retraining breathing.