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Dysfunctional breathing or chronic hyperventilation syndrome is a commonly misdiagnosed condition. The condition is different from acute hyperventilation or panic attacks, where patients often recognise that they are stressed and hyperventilating.

The condition is caused by an abnormal breathing pattern, with overuse of the wrong breathing muscles, shallow breathing and blowing out too much carbon dioxide.

Patients often complain of difficulty taking a full breath in, pins and needles, dizziness, palpitations, shortness of breath as well as frequent sighing and yawning.

Dysfunctional breathing can be corrected by breath retraining, usually with the help of an experienced chest physiotherapist. Although symptoms can be very disconcerting, there is nothing wrong with the lung or other organ system.

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