Objective: Although the presence of hyperventilation syndrome can affect the symptoms of patients with asthma, there is very little information available regarding its frequency in Spain. The aim of this study was to investigate the prevalence of hyperventilation syndrome in the asthmatic population treated as outpatients and establish its relationship with anxiety disorders.
Patients and method: We studied 157 consecutive asthmatic patients (61 men and 96 women; mean [SD] age, 45  years; forced expiratory volume in the first second, 84% [21%] of the predicted value) treated in our outpatients clinic. The patients had stable disease with varying degrees of severity. After collecting demographic data and medical histories, we asked the patients to complete the Spanish versions of the Anxiety Sensitivity Index, the Asthma Symptom Checklist, and the Nijmegen questionnaire; in the latter test, a score of 23 or over was considered diagnostic for hyperventilation syndrome. Finally, patients were evaluated to determine whether they had suffered from panic disorder in the last 6 months (according to the criteria of the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).
Results: Hyperventilation syndrome was present in 57 asthmatic patients (36%) and panic disorder in 4 patients (2%). The majority of patients with hyperventilation syndrome were women (78% vs 51%; P=.001) and were older (49 vs 42; P=.01); they displayed more basal dyspnea (1.26 vs 0.89 on the Medical Research Council scale; P=.01), greater sensitivity to anxiety (P=.001), and went to the emergency room more often for exacerbations (P=.002). Patients with hyperventilation syndrome scored significantly higher on all subscales of the Asthma Symptoms Checklist. Finally, the variables introduced in the regression analysis (stepwise) to explain the score on the Nijmegen questionnaire (r(2)=0.57) were basal dyspnea and sensitivity to anxiety.
Conclusions: Approximately one third of the asthmatic patients treated in a pulmonology clinic also present hyperventilation syndrome. This cannot be explained by comorbidity of asthma with panic disorder, and is only partly linked to the symptoms associated with hyperventilation that appear during an asthma attack.