Bronchoconstriction can be defined as a narrowing of the airways present in your lungs, known as bronchi and bronchioles. This condition generally tends to occur in diseases such as emphysema, asthma, and some lung diseases as well. However, bronchoconstriction can also happen in an individual who does not have any lung disease or asthma present. Sometimes, bronchoconstriction can also happen during an intense exercise or workout session. The cause of bronchoconstriction remains unknown, but there are many factors that are known about this condition.
Bronchoconstriction is a condition wherein the smooth muscles of your airways start becoming narrow, thus restricting the airflow through the air passages. Bronchoconstriction can happen due to three main factors. These include:
- The smooth muscles in the bronchi and bronchioles (these are the airways present in your lungs) become contracted or enter a spasmodic state.
- There is an inflammation of the airways.
- An allergic reaction or irritation causes excessive production of mucus. Drying or overcooling of the airways can also produce excessive mucus.
Prevention & Treatment of Bronchoconstriction
Bronchoconstriction is known to be a direct result of being exposed to a trigger as discussed above. If you understand what your body is undergoing, why the process of bronchoconstriction is happening, and how to treat it, then it becomes easy to prevent future episodes of bronchoconstriction and as a result, asthma attacks as well. The overall treatment plan for bronchoconstriction also depends on your specific triggers, the severity of your condition, and if you have any other underlying condition. Some treatment options your doctor may recommend include:
Avoid The Triggers Of Bronchoconstriction
One of the best ways of treating bronchoconstriction is to, of course, avoid the triggers completely. Anybody who suffers from asthma should always have an action plan that deals with ways to control your asthma. You should outline your goals and steps you need to take to control of your asthma. The first step in this action plan is to understand what triggers your asthma and how you can avoid such triggers. By avoiding these triggers, you will be avoiding the occurrence of bronchoconstriction as well as usually whatever triggers your asthma is likely going to trigger an episode of bronchoconstriction as well.
It may sound easy to avoid these bronchoconstriction triggers, but it is actually not as easy as it sounds. This is because you need to work and think like a detective to always keep a track and maintain a record of your symptoms. This is so that when you look at your symptoms and analyze them over a period of time, you will have a clear picture of what is causing your symptoms.
Keep An Eye On Your Diet
Many individuals often overlook the importance of diet on bronchoconstriction. Diet is also a big factor that can impact the symptoms of bronchoconstriction. For example, it has been seen that high levels of sodium intake are often associated with bronchoconstriction, while a high intake of omega-3 fish oils is known to lower the risk of bronchoconstriction.
Medications for Treating Bronchoconstriction
There are certain medications that are taken regularly for managing the symptoms. If you have EIB, then you will need to take them just before you start exercising. Some medications also need to be taken just before being exposed to a trigger. Some of these medications include:
- Leukotriene modifiers (taken orally to block some types of inflammation)
- ProAir HFA (albuterol)
- Short-acting beta agonists
- Inhaled corticosteroids
Rescue inhalers are also the first step medication that many patients use for treating the asthma symptoms, which stem from bronchoconstriction. These inhalers work by relaxing the smooth muscles in the lungs, thus decreasing bronchoconstriction and it stops the obstruction of the airways, making it easier to breathe.
In many cases, or over a period of time, rescue inhalers are no longer sufficient to control your symptoms. This usually happens once you reach a stage where you are using the rescue inhaler more than two times in a week or if you need to get a new prescription filled in less than one month. After this stage, your doctor will recommend that you switch to an inhaled steroid.
Also known as inhaled corticosteroids (ICS), these medications are known to the most effective anti-inflammatory medications used in the prevention of asthma symptoms. These are the present-day standard of care once you cross the stage of getting relief from rescue inhalers. ICS is better at controlling your asthma symptoms and is also more effective than any other type of treatment for asthma and bronchoconstriction.
Lifestyle Modifications To Treat, Prevent & Manage Bronchoconstriction
Apart from medications, you will need to undertake some lifestyle modifications to help you manage your symptoms. These changes may include:
- As much possible, avoid being exposed to your triggers.
- If you going to exercise, warm up properly before you begin.
- Make sure you wear a scarf or a mask in cold weather.
- If you suffer from EIB, it is recommended that you change to a sport that does not require endurance or long periods of deep breathing.
- If you have a respiratory infection, do not indulge in strenuous exercises.
- Follow a low-salt diet.
- Increase your consumption of omega-3 fatty acids and vegetables and fruits that are rich in vitamin C.
Are There Any Potential Complications From Bronchoconstriction?
There can be complications from bronchoconstriction. If you do not treat bronchoconstriction, then it can become life-threatening. This is why it is so important that you follow the doctor’s treatment plan and also have a management plan for when an episode of bronchoconstriction or asthma occurs.
Another potential complication of bronchoconstriction is that it can also cause remodeling of the airways. Airway remodeling happens when a serious condition such as bronchoconstriction changes the pattern of your lungs’ airways. It may thicken the airway or it may increase the level of mucus produced by the airways. The occurrence of airway remodeling is still under study by experts and the causes of the same still remain unclear. However, it is believed that the airway may become remodeled from the mechanical force exerted by your bronchi which damages the tissue cells when it constricts repeatedly.
A potential complication of exercise induced bronchoconstriction may also include that you start avoiding exercising and thus start suffering without the health benefits of exercise. You may also stop enjoying your favorite activities as you are unable to perform them properly anymore.
It is possible to manage bronchoconstriction without it hampering your day-to-day lifestyle. However, if bronchoconstriction is not treated, then it can become fatal. This is why it is important to see a doctor whenever you experience any symptoms of bronchoconstriction, regardless of whether or not you have a lung condition. All cases of bronchoconstriction need proper treatment to be managed properly.
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