What is exercise-induced asthma (EIA)?

Updated: Nov 20, 2020
  • Author: Michael J Morris, MD, FACP, FCCP; Chief Editor: Zab Mosenifar, MD, FACP, FCCP  more...
  • Print

Exercise-induced asthma (EIA), or exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB), is an asthma variant defined as a condition in which exercise or vigorous physical activity triggers acute bronchoconstriction in persons with heightened airway reactivity. It is observed primarily in persons who have asthma (exercise-induced bronchoconstriction in asthmatic persons) but can also be found in patients with normal resting spirometry findings with atopy, allergic rhinitis, or cystic fibrosis and even in healthy persons, many of whom are elite or cold weather athletes (exercise-induced bronchoconstriction in athletes). Exercise-induced bronchoconstriction is often a neglected diagnosis, and the underlying asthma may be silent in as many as 50% of patients, except during exercise. [20, 21]

The pathogenesis of exercise-induced bronchoconstriction is controversial. The disease may be mediated by water loss from the airway, heat loss from the airway, or a combination of both. The upper airway is designed to keep inspired air at 100% humidity and body temperature at 37°C (98.6°F). The nose is unable to condition the increased amount of air required for exercise, particularly in athletes who breathe through their mouths. The abnormal heat and water fluxes in the bronchial tree result in bronchoconstriction, occurring within minutes of completing exercise. Results from bronchoalveolar lavage studies have not demonstrated an increase in inflammatory mediators. These patients generally develop a refractory period, during which a second exercise challenge does not cause a significant degree of bronchoconstriction.

Did this answer your question?
Additional feedback? (Optional)
Thank you for your feedback!