What is Eupnea?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Eupnea is the formal medical term used to describe normal respiration. The roots of the word literally mean “good breathing.” If a patient has eupnea, it means that the respiration is not a cause for concern. Patients who have difficulty breathing are assessed to determine why so that appropriate treatments can be offered. In patients with chronic conditions involving the lungs and airways, it may be difficult to stabilize the respiration to make the patient comfortable.

The human respiratory system, showing the trachea, bronchioles, and lungs.
The human respiratory system, showing the trachea, bronchioles, and lungs.

When a patient is breathing normally, respiration is unlabored. The lungs inflate and deflate easily without effort on the patient's part and the breathing is usually quiet. No obstructions are present to limit the flow of air or make the breathing noisy and the patient doesn't experience tightness, pain, or other symptoms in the chest that might make breathing difficult. Eupnea is also steady, with a regular respiratory rate.

Eupnea is also known as quiet respiration.
Eupnea is also known as quiet respiration.

Patients who are breathing normally should be getting enough oxygen to supply the needs of the body. They do not feel starved for air and do not have symptoms such as bluing of the extremities. In a patient who is breathing normally but feels oxygen deprived or has symptoms like an altered level of consciousness, these symptoms indicate that something is wrong with the system the body uses to convey oxygen to the cells. Eupnea in combination with cardiovascular disease, for example, may mean that the patient is getting enough oxygen through the lungs, but the circulatory system can't carry the oxygen to the body.

Individuals who are morbidly obese may experience breathing difficulties.
Individuals who are morbidly obese may experience breathing difficulties.

Eupnea is also known as resting breathing or quiet respiration. Having labored, hard breathing does not necessarily mean that someone is unhealthy. People breathe harder and more deeply while they exercise. As long as an exerciser is breathing regularly and does not feel oxygen-starved, it indicates that exercise is taking place within the person's physical limitations and that he or she is healthy. The more people work out, the less hard they will have to work, explaining why some runners barely breathe hard on a jog, while people new to running may struggle for air.

Patients who are breathing normally should be getting enough oxygen to supply the needs of the body.
Patients who are breathing normally should be getting enough oxygen to supply the needs of the body.

When a patient is not breathing properly, testing can be used to find out why and to develop a treatment plan to address the matter. Treatments can include medication to control inflammation, oxygen supplementation for patients who are not getting enough oxygen, and exercise to increase lung capacity and general physical fitness. People who notice sudden changes in their breathing should consult a physician for evaluation, especially if breathing is labored or breathing creates a burning or tightening sensation in the chest.

Patients who are not breathing properly may require oxygen supplementation.
Patients who are not breathing properly may require oxygen supplementation.
While people breathe harder during exercise, experienced runners may barely breathe hard during a jog.
While people breathe harder during exercise, experienced runners may barely breathe hard during a jog.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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