Bronchoconstriction: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Prognosis

What is Bronchoconstriction?

Bronchoconstriction is a condition where there is narrowing of the airways of the lungs, that is bronchi and bronchioles. The bronchus is the passage through which the air passes to and from the lungs. This contraction of the smooth muscles results in narrowing of the airways and restricts the amount of air passing in and out of the lungs. Bronchoconstriction is seen in patients suffering from emphysema, asthma and other lung conditions. However, people without any lung diseases can also experience bronchoconstriction when doing intense exercise.

What is Bronchoconstriction?

What are the Medical Conditions Related with Bronchoconstriction?

Other conditions which are associated with bronchoconstriction are: COPD, asthma, emphysema, gastroesophageal reflux, cardiovascular conditions and vocal cord dysfunction.

The Pathophysiology of Bronchoconstriction

Bronchoconstriction is commonly seen in people who suffer from respiratory problems, such as asthma, cystic fibrosis, emphysema, and COPD. To understand bronchoconstriction better, it is necessary to understand the physical layout of your lungs.

Bronchioles are basically tubes through which the air flows in and out of your lungs. The bronchioles are surrounded by smooth muscles. In people who are asthmatic, these smooth muscles tend to sometimes squeeze tighter due to irritants or certain triggers as well as the inflammation that follows worsening asthma. Once these bronchioles start narrowing, this blocks the airflow into the lungs, making it more difficult to breathe and you can start developing symptoms, such as wheezing, shortness of breath, cough, chest tightness and it can ultimately cause an asthma attack as well.

What are the Causes of Bronchoconstriction?

The exact cause of bronchoconstriction is not clear. However, there are some triggers of bronchoconstriction and asthma which consists of: Environmental pollutants, allergens, smoke, cold air, chemicals, dry air, stress, lung diseases and respiratory infections.

Strenuous or intense exercise is another common trigger of bronchoconstriction. When someone with asthma suffers from bronchoconstriction during exercise, then it is termed as exercise-induced asthma/bronchoconstriction. Once the person stops exercise, the condition reverts back to normal.

Activities which consist of endurance training such as long-distance swimming, running, skiing and bicycling also are a common trigger of bronchoconstriction.

Is Bronchoconstriction a Life-Threatening Condition?

If bronchoconstriction is not treated, then it can become life-threatening. So patient should seek immediate treatment if having symptoms of bronchoconstriction.

What are the Symptoms of Bronchoconstriction?

Common symptoms of bronchoconstriction include: Shortness of breath, cough, wheezing, chest tightness, chest fatigue during exercise and low energy levels.

What are the Serious Symptoms of Bronchoconstriction?

Symptoms of bronchoconstriction which need immediate medical treatment are:

  • Persistent symptoms of bronchoconstriction even after using medications.
  • Rapid worsening of shortness of breath or wheezing.
  • Exercise induced bronchoconstriction which does not get relieved even after stopping the exercise.

What is the Treatment of Bronchoconstriction?

Treatment of bronchoconstriction depends on what triggers this condition in the patient, the severity of bronchoconstriction and patient’s general health and other medical conditions. Treatment for bronchoconstriction generally consists of taking medications prescribed by the doctor for controlling and relieving the symptoms of bronchoconstriction. Some patients may need to take medications just before being exposed to a trigger or exercising. Medications which are prescribed for patients suffering from bronchoconstriction consist of albuterol, inhaled corticosteroids, leukotriene modifiers and short-acting beta agonists.

What Are The Lifestyle Changes One Needs To Make In Bronchoconstriction?

  • Patient should avoid triggers of bronchoconstriction.
  • Patient should always wear a mask or scarf in cold weather.
  • Patient should always warm up before starting any type of exercise and should try and avoid vigorous exercise.
  • Patient should follow a healthy and a low-salt diet. The diet for bronchoconstriction should also include omega-3 fatty acids, which can be found in fatty fish, vegetables and fruits rich in vitamin C.

What is the Prognosis of Bronchoconstriction?

Bronchoconstriction with timely diagnosis and treatment has a good prognosis. However, if not treated on time, then bronchoconstriction can become fatal for the patient.

When Should You Consult A Doctor?

Many times we tend to just ignore the symptoms of bronchoconstriction assuming them to be the symptoms of asthma. However, any time you experience any symptoms of bronchoconstriction, you should consult a doctor. It is important that bronchoconstriction gets diagnosed at early stages itself as the symptoms of the condition also tend to mimic other underlying medical conditions. Having a correct diagnosis ensures that you will get proper treatment and you will be able to manage the situation during an emergency also. If you notice any of the following symptoms, you need to get immediate medical attention:

  • Shortness of breath or wheezing that tends to worsen within a short period of time
  • Symptoms do not improve even after you use asthma medications.
  • Symptoms come on while doing strenuous exercise, but do not subside after you have stopped exercising.

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