Bronchial hyperresponsiveness (or other combinations with airway or hyperreactivity, BH used as a general abbreviation) is a state characterised by easily triggered bronchospasm (contraction of the bronchioles or small airways).
Bronchial hyperresponsiveness can be assessed with a bronchial challenge test. This most often uses products like methacholine or histamine. These chemicals trigger bronchospasm in normal individuals as well, but people with bronchial hyperresponsiveness have a lower threshold.
Bronchial hyperresponsiveness is a hallmark of asthma but also occurs frequently in people suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). In the Lung Health Study, bronchial hyperresponsiveness was present in approximately two-thirds of patients with non-severe COPD, and this predicted lung function decline independently of other factors. In asthma it tends to be reversible with bronchodilator therapy, while this is not the case in COPD.
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