Bronchospasm Picture

Bronchospasm: Causes, Picture, Symptoms, and Treatment

Bronchospasm is a condition leading to breathing difficulties. It can trigger coughing and you feel tightness in the chest. It is caused due to the constriction of the airways. When the constriction of the airways becomes too much, you may find it difficult to breathe. Taking deep breaths becomes impossible. It can lead to a medical emergency. The inability to take deep breathes can reduce the oxygen levels in your body. So, the emergency causes you to seek medical help. It is a serious condition that you must never ignore. How can you detect and avoid the bronchospasm from affecting your life adversely? Read ahead to know the answer to the significant question. It will provide you with valuable information to overcome the problem.

Function Of The Respiratory System

bronchospasm Your body performs a unique function to keep you healthy and alive. The respiratory system is one among them. It maintains the balance of oxygen levels in the body. But, you never give much thought to it. It is due to the fact that it is controlled involuntarily. The autonomic functions decide your breathing patterns. You never have the control over how deep/shallow you breathe. So, your body decides it for you. Unless you practice the breathing techniques, you never get the control of your breathing.
The respiratory system exchanges carbon dioxide and oxygen using the following mechanisms:


It is the act of breathing. The mechanical action brings in oxygen when you breathe in. And, it lets out the carbon dioxide in your body by breathing out. Your lungs are responsible for the ventilation.


During the mechanism the exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen takes place. It happens at the alveoli and the pulmonary capillaries. Alveoli is the functional part of the lung that has great significance in completing the mechanism.


It is the final mechanism that provides the whole body with oxygen. Oxygen is required for performing all the functions to the optimum level. So, during perfusion, the blood with oxygen is pumped throughout the body.

When problems like bronchospasm occur, it interrupts the mechanism. So, it leads to improper functioning of the respiratory system. The problem ca severe breathing issues and other complication. Therefore, it is necessary to prevent the respiratory system by getting affected by the problem.

What Is Bronchospasm?

It is a condition that tightens the muscles in your bronchi. The bronchi refer to the muscles lining the airways. So, the shrinking of the muscles can constrict the airways. The narrowed airways never allow a sufficient amount of air to come in or expel out of the lungs. Therefore, it limits the oxygen levels in the blood. It also affects the carbon dioxide amount in your blood.


A realistic example can provide you more clarification on the subject. In some old home, you may have seen water pipes that have several years on it. When you stay in such houses, you can hear high-pitched noise of the water. It is nothing but the water flowing through the pipe. How can you hear it? The narrow water pipes are the root cause of the noise. Similarly, the narrowing of your airways leads to whistling noise when you breathe. Hence, bronchospasm can lead to wheezing. The problem mostly affects people with respiratory problems like asthma or allergies. So, it can trigger asthma symptoms in you. You can experience shortness of breath and wheezing.

Symptoms Of Bronchospasm

You can observe visible signs with the problem. Depending on the severity of the problems, you can experience different signs. So, what you experience depends on the extent of narrowing of the airways. The degree of airway restriction can trigger symptoms like:

Constriction In Chest

When your airways, constrict, you cannot breathe properly. So, it can result in tightness in your chest as well as back. You feel compression as if a weight is placed on your chest and back region. It can result in tightness and pain.

Shortness Of Breath

You feel difficult to breathe. It is due to the difficulty of getting enough air in your lungs to promote breathing properly.


The constriction of the airway can cause whistling sound when you inhale air into the lungs. So, you can experience wheezing.


The difficulty to breathe can trigger coughing. The restriction of the airways produces more phlegm. It the sticky mucus that leads to a cough.


The oxygen deprivation in the blood can cause severe exhaustion. So, you feel tired without performing any strenuous activities.


The shortness of breath usually accompanies feeling light-headed. Hence, you can experience dizziness.

Causes Of Bronchospasm

Some problems can lead to irritation in the airways. It results in swelling of the airways. So, the constriction of the airways results in the problem. People with asthma are more at risk of the issue compared to others. Others factors can also contribute to the issue including:


The allergens like pet dander or dust can trigger an allergic reaction. It can lead to inflammation of the airways. So, it results in the problem.

COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)

COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)

It refers to the group of lung diseases that can obstruct the airways. Chronic bronchitis and emphysema are some of the diseases coming under the category.

Chemical Fumes

The toxic fumes have the capability to put your respiratory system in danger. It causes inflammation in the airways leading to bronchospasm.

General Anesthesia

People having asthma or breathing problem can face the problem during any surgery they undergo. The use of general anesthesia can narrow the airway. So, it results in shortness of breath and wheezing.

Infection Of Respiratory System

If you suffer an infection in the lungs or the airways, then it can lead to the problem.


The physical exercise can narrow the airways in the lungs. So, you find it difficult to breathe. It is commonly known as exercise-induced bronchospasm (EIB). When you suffer from EIB, you will find it difficult to exercise for than thirty minutes at a stretch.

Cold Weather

Cold weather means the air is dry. So, the dry air has the ability to irritate already hypersensitive lungs. It increases the mucus production resulting in trouble to breathe.

Smoke Inhalation

Smoke inhalation occurs when you breathe in the byproducts of fire combustion. It can lead to the irritation in the airways leading to the bronchospasm.


The use of tobacco can irritate the lungs. It can cause smoke to enter the respiratory system. So, it can trigger the breathing problem. People with problematic lungs can suffer from the contraction of the muscles in the airway.

Diagnosing Bronchospasm

When you encounter problems with breathing, you need an appointment with the pulmonologist. The pulmonologist is the specialist doctor who treats lung diseases. When you take the appointment, the doctor can opt for the following diagnostic tools to see if you have a problem or not.

Physical Examination

The doctor first asks you about the symptoms you suffer. The medical professionals also take note of your medical history. So, you need to provide truthful information about your allergies, asthma or other breathing problems. It will shed light on the actual problem you may suffer. Then, the doctor listens to your lungs as breathe in and breathe out. Depending on the physical examination, the doctor may suggest further tests to diagnose the problem correctly.

Lung Function Test

Your doctor performs the lung function test to determine the working condition of your lungs. Therefore, the following test can shed light on the health of the lungs.



It is the test that assesses the working of the lungs based on the amount of air you inhale and exhale. For the test, you breathe into the tube. Another end of the tube is connected to the device known as spirometer. So, the device can measure the force of air as you inhale and exhale. It is the test suggested by the doctor to detect several respiratory problems including COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), asthma, and others.

Lung Volume Test

It is the most common lung function test that offers more precise results compared to spirometry. It can measure the volume of air (oxygen) in that your lungs can hold. So, the effective test can even measure the air remaining at the end of the normal breath.

Lung Diffusion Capacity

It is the test that can assess the processing of air by your lungs. Your doctor can combine with other tests to check the lung function. So, it helps detect if your respiratory system is working properly or not. It can also measure the efficiency of the lungs. You just need to inhale and exhale through a tube. Hence, the test also referred to as DLCO (Diffusing capacity of Lung for Carbon Monoxide) can detect the oxygen levels. Along with the test, your doctor can test the hemoglobin levels. Hemoglobin is a protein aiding oxygen transportation in the blood. Hence, measuring it can provide an idea about your lung capacity.

Pulse Oximetry

Pulse Oximetry

By attaching a device on your finger, your doctor can measure the oxygen levels in your blood. So, the device clipped onto the finger sends the light of two wavelengths through the finger. It can precisely measure your pulse rate as well as the oxygen levels in your system. Hence, the non-invasive method offers a clear idea about the oxygen saturation in our blood.

Eucapnic Voluntary Hyperventilation

If you suffer from exercise-induced bronchospasm, then the test can diagnose it. During the test, you breathe the mixture of air containing carbon dioxide and oxygen. It stimulates breathing when you perform exercises. So, your doctor can detect your lung function after breathing the mixture. The test is successfully used to monitor the breathing of athletes taking part in the summer and winter athletic events.

Chest X-Ray

The imaging test is useful when you have a lung infection. So, using the x-ray, your doctor can find any signs of pneumonia or other infection affecting your lungs.

CT Scan

The CT Scan offers more sophisticated images of the lungs. Therefore, it provides a comprehensive idea about lung health.

Treating Bronchospasm

When you find it difficult to breathe, you need medical assistance. After confirming the problem, your doctor can adapt to treatment methods. The different treatment options aim to widen the airways. So, it makes it possible to breathe easier. The common treatment options available to treat bronchospasm are:

Short-Acting Bronchodilators

As the name suggests, it provides quick relief for a short period of time. The effective medication act very fast and alleviate the symptoms of the issue within a few minutes. So, your doctor can recommend it widen your airways swiftly. The effects of the medication can last up to a few hours (four hours maximum). The short-acting bronchodilators are effective for sudden and severe spams like the exercise-induced breathing issues. But, you can take it only once or twice a week.

The medication is available in liquid form. Therefore, you can use it with the help of nebulizer. Once it passes through the nebulizer, it converts into an inhalable form. For the short-acting bronchodilators to become effective, you need to take it before a workout. So, it can help you overcome the exercise-induced bronchospasm. Taking it fifteen minutes before the workout can show positive results. The common short-acting bronchodilators your doctor can prescribe are:

  • Terbutaline
  • Metaproterenol
  • Levalbuterol (Xopenex HFA)
  • Albuterol (Ventolin HFA, Proventil HFA, ProAir HFA)

Long-Acting Bronchodilators

The medication takes some time to show effectiveness. But, it can keep the arrays for a longer duration of time (up to twelve hours). It is mostly prescribed by your doctor for severe cases of bronchospasm. In most chronic cases, your doctor prescribes it with an inhaled steroid. So, the combined effect can prevent spasms. Remember it does not provide quick relief. Hence, you need to wait for some time to see visible results. You need to take it at least two to three times per day. By taking the bronchodilator at scheduled times every day can show results. Some of the common examples of the long-acting bronchodilators include:

  • Serevent
  • Symbicort
  • Advair
  • Dulera
  • Perforomist
  • Foradil
  • Inhaled Steroids

The steroids are effective in bringing down the swelling you experience in the airways. The inhaled steroid work well for the long-term control of the issues. But, you need to understand that it takes times to see results. Compared to short-acting bronchodilator, it takes longer to work.

Intravenous or Oral Steroids

Your doctor prescribes it in case of severe bronchospasm. It can relieve the inflammation and expand the airways swiftly. So, you can get immediate relief for chronic cases.


If an underlying infection triggers the narrowing of airways, then antibiotics can provide relief. Antibiotics alleviate the infection. Once the infection clears, you can breathe freely.

Alternative Therapies For Bronchospasm

Apart from the medical treatments, you can also think about alternative therapies. Some techniques promote breathing retraining. So, it can successfully reduce the effects of the airway constriction. One such technique that is gaining popularity is the Buteyko breathing technique. It has shown successful results in several studies (3 out of 4 studies). The technique introduced to the world by Konstantine Buteyko (a Russian physician), can prevent shortness of breath from worsening.

He proposed that hyperventilation is the root causes triggering the worsening of the shortness breath in asthmatics. It is a set of breathing exercise focusing on nasal breathing. It also promotes breath holding as well as relaxation. His proposed breathing technique can result in hypoventilation. Hypoventilation refers to the increase in the carbon dioxide levels in the blood. So, it has a bronchodilation effect in your body. It can effectively reduce the shortness of breath.

Preventing Bronchospasm

It is possible to prevent bronchospasm. You can follow the pointer provided below to avoid the airway constriction.

  • To avoid exercise-induced airway constriction, you need to perform warm up and cool down. So, before you start your workout, warm up for at least five to ten minutes. After the exercise, cool down for the same 5 to 10 minutes to avoid shortness of breath.
  • If you have allergies, then you need to maintain caution. It is better to avoid physical workouts while the pollen count is high. It puts you at risk of getting bronchospasm.
  • Hydration is another important factor that can avoid airway constriction. So, drink sufficient amount of water. It loosens the mucus accumulated in your chest. The excess mucus can trigger the shortness of breath.
  • The problem worsens during the cold weather. It is due to the reduction in the oxygen levels during the cold season. Therefore, you need to exercise inside your house during such adverse weather condition. It is also important to cover your nose as well as mouth when you go out in cold weather. So, wearing a scarf is advisable.
  • Smoking can damage your lungs. It can affect the functional part of the lungs (alveoli). So, it is better to quit smoking. You need to consult your doctor for proper guidance and advice to quit the bad habit. It is also important to stay away from people who smoke.
  • Some people are more at risk of getting the problem. People who are above 65 years of age have low immunity. Similarly, people with chronic lung disease or have problems with immune system need to maintain caution. So, such people need to get vaccinations. Staying up to date on vaccines like influenza and pneumococcal can provide you with protection against the issue.


Taking good care can avoid any complications due to bronchospasm. Therefore, try to understand your body. Any abnormal signs mean something is wrong. If you lung diseases, then take good care. So, with good care and effective treatment, you can overcome the problem with ease.

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