What’s bronchoconstriction?

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Bronchoconstriction is a symptom of asthma that occurs when smooth muscle outside the bronchioles constricts, causing difficulty breathing. Fast-acting inhalers and corticosteroids can help, but paradoxical bronchoconstriction can occur as a rare side effect of asthma medication. It’s important to seek medical attention until the right treatment is found.

Bronchoconstriction can be symptomatic of various forms of asthma. It is a serious symptom that significantly affects the ability to breathe. As the term would imply, this condition impacts the airways or bronchioles, which travel from the alveoli to the bronchi and carry air. Part of asthma occurs when inflammation affects the bronchioles, but another part is the result of smooth muscle outside the bronchioles blocking or constricting them. This causes much less space for air to pass into or out of the lungs.

The main symptoms of bronchoconstriction are a decreased ability to breathe, and people may have additional signs of this such as coughing or wheezing. As mentioned, there are many types of asthma and everyone could have this condition. The specific reasons for the onset vary according to the type of asthma. For example, smooth muscle constriction is often noted in exercise-induced asthma, and it is possible that activity alone stimulates smooth muscle actions.

A very serious form of this condition is called paradoxical bronchoconstriction. This is when the medications used to treat asthma actually cause smooth muscle to constrict. It should be noted that this reaction tends to be extremely rare, and doctors are unclear as to its cause. From the medical literature, it has occurred, albeit rarely, with most forms of inhaled asthma treatment, and identification of a pattern or cause is therefore made much more difficult. It is possible for other physical conditions or inactive ingredients in asthma medications to cause an adverse reaction in a very small percentage of people.

In most cases, taking fast-acting inhaled asthma medications such as albuterol is the accepted course for relaxing the smooth muscles surrounding the bronchioles. Further treatment could be added in the form of daily corticosteroids which are intended to reduce inflammation at all times. These two treatments should not be confused if bronchoconstriction occurs and breathing is difficult. Fast-acting inhalers or injected adrenaline, via something like the epi-pen®, are better treatments for slowing the contraction motion of the smooth muscles.

Sometimes asthma symptoms don’t respond to one or more of the suggested medications. Bronchoconstriction and inflammation can still occur. It is valuable to continue seeking medical attention until the right medicines are found. People who experience tightness in the chest, wheezing, difficulty breathing and coughing are probably not being adequately treated for this disease. Finding the right treatment can be important in relieving any symptoms.

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