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Bronchospasm or a bronchial spasm is a sudden constriction of the muscles in the walls of the bronchioles. It is caused by the release (degranulation) of substances from mast cells or basophils under the influence of anaphylatoxins. It causes difficulty in breathing which can be very mild to severe.
Bronchospasms appear as the feature of asthma, chronic bronchitis and anaphylaxis. Bronchospasms are a possible side effect of some drugs: pilocarpine (which is used to treat illness resulting from the ingestion of deadly nightshade, as well as other things), beta blockers (used to treat hypertension), a paradoxical result of using LABA drugs (to treat COPD) and other drugs. Bronchospasms can present as a sign of giardiasis.
A few of the more common allergens are foods such as eggs, milk, peanuts, walnuts, tree and other nuts, fish, especially shellfish, soy and wheat; insect bites and stings, especially bee stings; and other medicines, especially penicillin and its derivatives.
The overactivity of the bronchioles' muscle is a result of exposure to a stimulus which under normal circumstances would cause little or no response. The resulting constriction and inflammation causes a narrowing of the airways and an increase in mucus production; this reduces the amount of oxygen that is available to the individual causing breathlessness, coughing and hypoxia.
Bronchospasms are a serious potential complication of placing a breathing tube during general anesthesia. When the airways spasm or constrict in response to the irritating stimulus of the breathing tube, it is difficult to maintain the airway and the patient can become apneic.
Bronchospasm are caused by a number of reasons. Lower respiratory tract conditions such as pneumonia, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and emphysema can result in contraction of the airways. Other causes are side effects of topical decongestants such as oxymetazoline and phenylephrine. Both of these medications activate alpha-1 adrenergic receptors that result in smooth muscle constriction. Non-selective beta blockers are known to facilitate bronchospasm as well. Beta blockers bind into the β2 receptors and block the action of epinephrine and norepinephrine from binding to its receptors, causing shortness of breath.
Beta 2 agonists
Beta2-adrenergic agonists are recommended for bronchospasm.
- Short acting (SABA)
- Long acting (LABA)
Muscarinic Acetylcholine receptor antagonist
The neurotransmitter acetylcholine is known to decrease sympathetic response by slowing the heart rate and constricting the smooth muscle tissue. Ongoing research and successful clinical trials have shown that agents such as diphenhydramine, atropine and Ipratropium bromide (all of which act as receptor antagonists of muscarinic acetylcholine receptors) are effective for treating asthma and COPD-related symptoms .
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