Exercise-induced asthma (EIA) is an inflammatory condition of the airways that causes an individual to feel winded or to wheeze when exercising. Similar to other forms of asthma, EIA symptoms result from airway constriction and excess mucus production. Individuals with exercise-induced asthma may experience symptoms including chest tightness, coughing, and shortness of breath. With appropriate treatment, individuals with EIA are able to maintain an active lifestyle.
There is no known cause for exercise-induced asthma, and symptomatic individuals may be affected by a number of diverse environmental factors. Exercising outdoors on days when there is a high pollen or allergen count can trigger symptoms. Air pollution and extreme temperatures can also adversely affect an individual with EIA. Excessive exposure to certain chemicals including insecticides, fertilizers, and paints may increase an individual's chances of becoming symptomatic. Though environmental factors may trigger EIA symptoms, the contents of an individuals workout can also contribute to their development.
Individuals with EIA should pay close attention to their workout regimen and take note of exercises that seem to trigger symptoms. High-impact workouts, such as running or aerobics, may increase the chances of asthma attacks, whereas slower paced workouts may not cause any symptoms at all. Until a diagnosis of EIA can be confirmed, individuals should avoid intense exercises which may cause symptoms.
When exercise-induced asthma is suspected, a physician conducts a physical exam and additional tests to rule out a secondary condition. Heart disease, lung disorders, and medication side effects can cause symptoms that mimic those experienced with EIA. For individuals who are known to be asthmatic, additional tests are conducted to evaluate lung function.
There are a variety of tests which are conducted to determine whether or not an individual has asthma. Spirometry is the most common diagnostic test performed to confirm inflammatory airway constriction. During spirometry, the individual is asked to forcefully exhale into a device called a spirometer. Registering below what is considered normal for his or her age and gender is indicative of airway inflammation, or asthma. Other tests used to evaluate lung function include a nitric oxide test, methacholine challenge test, and peak flow measurement.
Treatment for EIA commonly involves the use of an inhaled bronchodilator, which aids with opening constricted airways, and symptom control. In some cases, medications may be prescribed in conjunction with the use of an inhaler. Individuals who experience regular symptoms may require a long-term treatment plan to reduce the severity and frequency of symptoms. If asthma symptoms are allergy-induced, treatment may include regular allergy-desensitization injections.
Individuals diagnosed with EIA are encouraged to continue exercising. Over time, exercise is beneficial for asthmatics and can ease symptoms. Complications associated with exercise-induced asthma include permanent airway constriction, decreased physical stamina, and persistent cough. Individuals who smoke, who are obese, or have existing allergies are at a greater risk for developing exercise-induced asthma.