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Vocabulary for Breathing Disorders

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  • 0:00 Focus on Breathing
  • 0:40 Eupnea, Apnea, Dyspnea
  • 1:33 Tachy-, Brady-,…
  • 4:26 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson is going to define eupnea, apnea, and dyspnea, and it will delineate between tachypnea, bradypnea, hyperpnea, hypopnea, hyperventilation, and hypoventilation.

Focus on Breathing

Normally, we don't even think about the fact that we're breathing. Not only that, we don't even think about how we are breathing. As in, are we breathing too fast, too slow, heavily, with shallow breaths, and so forth?

The two exceptions to this that come to mind are people that use breath meditation techniques, which require them to focus on how they breathe, and people who may have breathing disorders, which means they have no choice but to notice that they're breathing abnormally. This isn't a lesson on meditation. And so that leaves me to focus on some breathing disorders and the technical terms associated with them.

Eupnea, Apnea, Dyspnea

Let's start with the basics. More than likely, right now, you are breathing normally. Normal respiration, easy and free respiration normally observed in an individual under resting conditions, is known as eupnea. Eu- is a combining form that means good and -pnea means breathing.

The exact opposite of eupnea is apnea, the absence of spontaneous breathing. The a- in apnea means not or without something. Sleep apnea refers to one or more involuntary pauses in breathing, or shallow breathing, as a person sleeps.

Perhaps somewhere in the middle of normal breathing and not breathing at all is shortness of breath, difficult or labored breathing, technically called dyspnea, where dys- refers to something that's painful. As a memory trick, recall: D stands for dyspnea and difficulty.

Tachy-, Brady-, Hyper-, Hypo- Pnea

Now that we've got the basics covered, let's move on to terms related to the speed and/or depth of respiration. Tachypnea refers to rapid breathing; especially rapid and shallow breathing. The combining form of tachy- means rapid or swift.

Compare this to Hyperpnea, which is abnormally deep breathing, with or without an increase in respiratory rate. Hyper- implies an abnormally high level of something.

Hyper is also a prefix in hyperventilation, a frequency and/or depth to the ventilation such that the levels of CO2 in the body drop to abnormally low levels, as commonly seen during the taking of rapid and/or deep breaths, as per a panic attack.

In opposition to these three terms are:

  • Bradypnea, abnormally slow respiration, where brady- means slow.
  • Hypopnea, abnormally shallow breathing, with or without a decrease in the respiratory rate. Hypo- implies an abnormally low level of something.
  • Hypoventilation, a frequency and/or depth of ventilation that is too low for adequate elimination of CO2 from the body. Commonly, but not always, hypoventilation is seen as the taking of shallow and/or infrequent breaths.

Now, you may be a bit confused between all of these terms. I mean bradypnea means slow breathing, while hypopnea and hypoventilation may have slow breathing ascribed to them as well. So what's the real difference?

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