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Exercise-induced bronchospasm (EIB) is the obstruction of the airflow due to the shrinkage of airways in the lungs during physical exertion. This causes difficulties in breathing. It is different from exercise-induced asthma (EIA) which is an exacerbation of asthma due to exercise. However, EIB can occur even in patients without a history of asthma.
The symptoms of exercise-induced bronchospasm usually begin after 5-20 minutes of continuous exercise and may include:
Patients with EIB cannot perform exercises for more than half an hour at a time.
Exercise-induced bronchospasm usually occurs with the inhalation of the air, which is cooler and drier when compared to the air in the lungs. This causes an increase in the rate of breathing (hyperventilation) leading to a loss of water and heat from the lungs. This results in the dehydration and increase in the osmolarity of the cells in the airways. Consequently, inflammatory mediators are released causing an increased response leading to EIB.
Exercise-induced bronchospasm can occur in anyone irrespective of their age. The factors that make a person more prone to develop EIB are:
The diagnosis of EIB is based on the symptoms, physical examination and breathing tests performed on the patient. A breathing test involves measuring the volume of air blown out of the lungs by using a spirometer or a peak flow meter. Later, a bronchodilator medicine is given for widening the airways, and the test is repeated. The results of the two tests are compared to check for an improvement in the airflow. This helps to rule out chronic asthma.
Sometimes an exercise challenge test may be performed. The patient is asked to use a stationary exercise equipment or run on a treadmill to increase the breathing rate. The doctor checks if exercises trigger EIB.
Lung function tests may be ordered to rule out conditions, which might produce similar symptoms such as allergies, vocal cord dysfunction, certain lung or heart diseases.
Treatment aims at relieving the symptoms while improving the performance. The medications are prescribed as per the severity of the condition. The treatment options include:
It is possible to prevent exercise-induced bronchospasm to a large extent by taking the below measures:
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