What is Bronchoconstriction?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 20 September 2019
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Bronchoconstriction can be symptomatic of various forms of asthma. It is a serious symptom that significantly affects ability to breathe. As the term would imply, this condition has an impact on 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 of the bronchioles clamping down or constricting them. This causes much less room for air to pass in or out of the lungs.

The main symptoms of bronchoconstriction are reduced ability to breathe, and people may have additional signs of this like coughing or wheezing. As mentioned, there are many types of asthma and each might have this condition occur. The specific reasons for occurrence vary on asthma type. For instance, smooth muscle constriction is frequently noted in exercise-induced asthma, and it’s possible that activity alone stimulates the actions of the smooth muscles.


One form of this condition that is very severe is called paradoxical bronchoconstriction. This is when the medicines that are used to treat asthma actually provoke smooth muscle constriction. It should be noted this reaction tends to be extremely rare and doctors are unclear as to its cause. From medical literature, it has occurred, though rarely, with most forms of inhaled asthma treatments, and identifying a pattern or cause is thus made much more difficult. It may be that other physical conditions or inactive ingredients of asthma medicines cause an adverse reaction in a very tiny percent of people.

In the majority of cases, taking inhaled asthma medicines like albuterol, which is fast acting, is the accepted course for relaxing smooth muscles surrounding the bronchioles. An additional treatment could be added in the form of daily corticosteroids that are meant to keep inflammation down at all times. These two treatments should not be confused if bronchoconstriction is occurring and breathing is difficult. Fast-acting inhalers or injected adrenaline, via something like the epi-pen®, are better treatments for slowing down the squeezing motion of the smooth muscles.

Sometimes asthma symptoms do not respond to one medication or several suggested ones. Bronchoconstriction and inflammation may still be occurring. It’s valuable to keep pursuing medical help until the right medicines are found. People noting sensations of tightness in chest, wheezing, difficulty breathing, and coughing are likely not adequately treated for this illness. Finding that right treatment can be important to alleviate all symptoms.


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