The term “tachypnea” is used to describe abnormally fast breathing. A normal respiratory rate for adults is somewhere between 12 and 20 breaths per minute (this differs for children). It is considered tachypnea if a breathing rate is more than 20 breaths per minute. Tachypnea is not considered a disease, but a symptom of an underlying ailment or disease.
How Tachypnea is Different
As previously mentioned, tachypnea is a term used to describe fast breathing. This does not say anything about how the person is feeling. A person affected with tachypnea may feel very short of breath or they may not notice any difference at all. Dyspnea is also a term that describes breathing but it refers to the feeling of shortness of breath. Dyspnea can occur with a low, normal, or high breathing rate. It can also occur with shallow breathing or deep breathing.
Symptoms of Tachypnea
Tachypnea may or may not be accompanied by dyspnea. Blue-ish hued fingernails and lips can occur. Tachypnea can occur without any obvious symptoms, especially when related to metabolic imbalances.
Causes of Tachypnea
Tachypnea is caused by many different health issues, such as:
Respiratory Problems — Pneumonia, COPD, asthma, low levels of oxygen in the blood, collapsed lungs, etc.
Cardiovascular Problems — Congestive heart failure, low red blood cell count, overactive thyroid, etc.
Physiological Problems — Exercise, fever, and similar illnesses, low blood sugar, anxiety and panic attacks, obesity, etc.
Neurological Problems — brain tumors, toxin build-up in the brain, etc.
Acid Imbalances — sepsis, etc.
Medications and Drugs — aspirin, amphetamines, hallucinogens, cannabinoids, anticholinergics, etc.
Managing and Treating Tachypnea
The treatment and management of tachypnea depend greatly on the underlying health issue. It is important to, first, pinpoint the primary cause of tachypnea, in order for treatment to occur.
For pulmonary issues, respiratory support will likely be provided. This can include oxygen therapy, inhaler (bronchodilators or steroids), diuretics, nitrates, or one of many other treatments could be prescribed.
For cardiovascular disorders, an echocardiogram will likely be ordered. Echocardiograms (EKGs) and blood tests can reveal a lot and provide further information about your tachypnea. It is important to understand why you’ve had heart or lung problems and your heat’s electoral system and heart rhythm must be evaluated. Beta-blockers may be prescribed to help lower blood pressure and the risk of a heart attack. Other medications like nitroglycerin or morphine may be prescribed to prevent pain and protect your heart.
For disorders with blood, common blood tests (to measure blood count) will likely be conducted. If hemoglobin and hematocrit levels are below a certain point, a blood transfusion may be necessary to rebalance your blood levels and counts.
For tachypnea caused by metabolic reasons, like diabetic ketoacidosis, you will likely be treated with IV fluids and insulin therapy. Other causes may lead to dialysis to purify the blood.
Like any type of illness or health problem, it is important to talk to your primary care doctor for a diagnosis and a plan treating tachypnea. For more questions about tachypnea, contact your doctor.