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Bronchospasm


Also known as a Bronchial Spasm, a Bronchospasm happens when a person experiences a sudden abnormal constriction in the smooth muscles of the bronchi walls, resulting in the narrowing of the airways and obstruction of breathing. The bronchi are the airways that lead into the lungs, and when a person is exposed to certain stimuli, constriction and inflammation may occur.

BRONCHOSPASM SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS

Bronchospasms are the result of exposure to substances released from the basophils or mast cells that are caused by anaphylatoxins. These substances lead to an allergic reaction that causes both constriction and lung inflammation. Both conditions greatly reduce the flow of oxygen to the lungs of a person who is suffering from a Bronchospasm.

People who experience Bronchospasms have difficulty in breathing and are prone to breathlessness, wheezing coughs, and hypoxia, when the body and its tissues are deprived of oxygen. Usually these episodes can range from mild to very severe constrictions, and are common symptoms of individuals who have asthma or bronchitis.

When a person has an asthma attack, a Bronchospasm occurs. This narrows the bronchus diameter and causes the mucosa to swell and inflame. The bronchial glands secrete a massive amount of sticky mucus that is often difficult to dislodge. The mucus is an irritant that plugs the bronchus, adding to the obstruction of the normal flow of air, and giving rise to uncontrollable coughing.

This obstruction makes it difficult for a person to get enough air in order to get enough oxygen for the body. Breathing during a Bronchospasm will require a huge muscular effort compared to when a person is breathes normally.

Apart from asthma and bronchitis, chronic lung diseases such as emphysema, various respiratory infections, anaphylactic shock, or a person’s allergic reaction to certain chemicals can also cause Bronchospasms. Bronchospasms may also be triggered by certain medicines, such as a side effect of Pilocarpine, a medication used to treat poisoning from ingestion of deadly nightshade, some hypertension drugs, such as Beta Blockers, as well as penicillin-based drugs and its similar derivatives.

People who are allergic to insect bites, as well those who have food allergies to eggs, peanuts, milks, nuts, shellfish, soy and wheat products may also experience episodes of Bronchospasms. In some cases, people who are under the general anesthesia during surgery experience Bronchospasms as a complication to their breathing tubes, causing the patient to become apneic.
Bronchospasm
Image: Bronchospasm

BRONCHOSPASM RISK FACTOR

People who are frequently exposed to very cold environments are at risk for Bronchospasm. So are asthmatics and people who suffer from bronchitis. Allergies are also one of the risk factors for this condition, particularly when a person is exposed to various foreign substances like bacteria, viruses, and other toxins. People who are allergic to pollen, dust, mold, strong odors, certain foods, aerosol sprays, and animal dander also experience this type of bronchial constriction every time they are exposed to these substances.

Other risk factors include exercise, particularly if performed by asthmatics who immediately start to wheeze and cough afterwards; psychological stress and extreme emotions may also trigger Bronchospasm, as well as various upper respiratory infections.

People who suffer from Bronchospasm frequently experience wheezing, coughing, breathing trouble, and tightness in the chest, which escalate during the night, during very cold weather, or exposure to various allergens. Asthmatic children, infants and toddlers are particularly prone to Bronchospasms, which are accompanied by uncontrollable coughing.

BRONCHOSPASM DIAGNOSIS

Bronchospasm is diagnosed based on the clinical symptoms of wheezing and coughing that are the result of the poor flow of air to the lungs, particularly during asthma attacks. The doctor will ascertain a patient’s medical history and subject the patient to lung function and other breathing tests to confirm this diagnosis.

The doctor will also subject the patient to a thorough physical exam that includes checking the upper respiratory tract, chest and skin. The doctor will likewise search for signs of increased mucus secretion, a swollen nasal passage and polyps in the nasal canal. Listening to the patient’s breathing for any indications of high-pitched whistling is also part of the examination to check for obstruction in the air passages.

Other breathing tests may be conducted, such as a spirometry, a non-invasive procedure where the patient takes deep breathes and exhales forcefully into a hose that is connected to a spirometer. This machine takes breathing measurements of the maximum amount of air inhaled and exhaled, as well as the maximum amount of air the patient can exhale per second in order to help doctors determine the presence of asthma, one of the causes of Bronchospasms.

Another way to diagnose asthma-related Bronchospasm is known as the challenge test. The doctor will subject the patient to a variety of airway obstruction tests, such as exposing the patient to substances which triggers airway allergies, or asking the patient to breath in cold air for a period of time. Performing physical activity that induces exertion on the part of the patient is also conducted to find out if these factors can trigger a Bronchospasm attack.

The doctor may also perform other tests to rule out other conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung infections, pulmonary embolism, lower respiratory infection, congestive heart failure, or tumors in the airways.

The doctor may also order x-rays of the patient’s chest and sinuses, a complete blood count, a CT scan of the patient’s lungs, as well as a sputum exam, and other allergy tests.

BRONCHOSPASM TREATMENT

To treat episodes of Bronchospasm, the doctor usually prescribes Beta2-agonists that work to relax the smooth muscles of the patient’s airways or bronchi. Beta2-agonists also control the release of mast cells and basophils that may trigger Bronchospasms in asthmatic patients. These prescription medications include albuterol, terbutaline, isoetharine, and metaproterenol.

To prevent inflammation of the lungs, the doctor may also prescribe inhaled corticosteroids in the form of inhalers and sprays, or cromolyn sodium, which prevents the narrowing of airways during asthma, attacks.

People who are prone to experiencing Bronchospasms due to asthma, bronchitis, or exposure to allergens should avoid any allergic substances that trigger a reaction. These irritants include cigarette smoke, animal hair, pollen, dust or dust mites, mold, certain medications, and animal dander.

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