New Considerations About Measuring Airway Hyperresponsiveness
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Measuring airway responsiveness to inhaled bronchoconstrictor stimuli, such as methacholine or histamine, has become an important tool in the diagnosis of asthma. This is measured by patients inhaling increasing doses or concentrations of the bronchoconstrictor stimulus until a given level of bronchoconstriction is achieved. Inhaled allergens initiate processes that increase airway inflammation and enhance airway hyperresponsiveness in asthmatic subjects. Studies using inhaled allergen challenges have provided insight into how changes in airway hyperresponsiveness are regulated by induced inflammatory processes. These changes in airway hyperresponsiveness (1-2 doubling doses) have been shown to be of much smaller magnitude than those demonstrated when asthmatics with stable airway hyperresponsiveness are compared to normals (4-8 doubling doses). These allergen-induced changes would be of little relevance in subjects with normal airway responsiveness, because they would not increase the degree of airway responsiveness into the asthmatic range. They are, however, important in asthmatics who already have airway hyperresponsiveness because they are similar to changes associated with worsening asthma control. It is likely that the mechanisms responsible for the changes in airway hyperresponsiveness following experimental allergen exposure are similar to those producing transient worsening of control in asthmatics. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that the mechanisms of the transient allergen-induced airway hyperresponsiveness will explain the underlying mechanisms of the persistent airway hyperresponsiveness in asthmatic patients when compared with normal individuals.
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