Bronchoconstriction is a health condition categorised by the contraction of smooth muscles of the bronchus. The bronchus is the pathway that lets air move to and from the lungs. The muscle contraction makes the bronchus narrow and hinders the amount of air passing into and out of the lungs. This health condition typically develops in asthma, emphysema, and other lung disorders. However, bronchoconstriction can also occur to those without any lung problems during an intense workout.
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The exact cause of bronchoconstriction is not clear. However, certain factors are known to trigger bronchoconstriction as well as asthma including:
- Environmental pollutants
- Cold air or dry air
- Respiratory infections
- Lung disorders
A strenuous workout is another common trigger of bronchoconstriction in people who don’t exhibit any type of lung problem. This condition is eased when the person stops exercising. This is called exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB). The main contributing factor of EIB is endurance activities, and this type of activity includes long durations of deep breathing exercises such as
- Long-distance running
- Long-distance swimming
- Long-distance bicycling
Athletes who perform workouts in extremely cold climates are highly prone to having EIB. Though it is not clearly established, the change in temperature of the airway while breathing excessive amounts of cold air followed by the rewarming may be the cause. Additionally, dehydration from breathing dry air may also cause the release of inflammatory cells that cause swelling.
Symptoms Of Bronchoconstriction
Some of the common symptoms of bronchoconstriction include:
- Shortness of breath
- Pain in the chest
- Extreme fatigue during exercise (primarily EIB)
- Poor physical performance
If left unattended, this condition can become fatal. Hence it is vital to follow the doctor’s treatment and management plans.
Bronchoconstriction may also lead to airway remodelling, when the pattern of airways changes, thickened or increases the secretion of mucus. Studies are ongoing about this condition, so its root causes aren’t clear. However, experts suggest that any changes are caused when the mechanical force of bronchi constricts damaging tissue cells during concurrent episodes of bronchoconstriction.
Complications of EIB may include the following:
- Unable to engage in favourite sports due to poor performance
- Avoiding exercise, thus missing out on health incentives it offers
Some conditions that are related to bronchoconstriction include:
- Vocal cord dysfunction
- Gastroesophageal reflux
- Cardiovascular conditions
When To Visit Doctor
You should see a doctor anytime when experiencing any symptoms of bronchoconstriction. It’s essential to get the right diagnosis as the symptoms can be quite similar to other medical conditions. Correct diagnosis can assure proper treatment and management to avert a medical emergency.
Get immediate medical attention if you experience any of the following symptoms.
- Shortness of breath
Symptoms that don’t settle even after having asthma medications
Symptoms caused due to intense exercise that doesn’t get better once you’ve stopped the activity
The treatment mode for bronchoconstriction depends on identifying the specific triggers, the severity of health conditions, as well as any other health problems a person may have. Some of the treatment options recommended by the healthcare provider include prescription medications to be taken regularly for easing ongoing symptoms. In certain situations, you may only need medication just before exercising or being exposed to a trigger.
Modifying the lifestyle behaviour can also help a person manage the condition, which includes:
- Staying away from triggers
- Warming up prior to any exercise
- Using a scarf or mask in cold weather
- Changing the sport activity that doesn’t need endurance and extended time of deep breathing like football, baseball or sprinting (for EIB)
- Avoid any kind of intense exercise when a person has a respiratory infection
- Follow a low-salt diet