Everyone knows what remodelling is, we remodel our kitchens, our bathrooms and our homes, but very few people know about airway remodelling. Airway remodelling isn’t nearly as exciting as remodelling your home, but it does affect the way you breathe, which is why we feel it is important to explain the mechanisms.

What is it?

Airway remodelling is an ongoing structural change caused by asthma that leads to thickened airway walls and the narrowing of the airway. The phenomenon shouldn’t be taken lightly, as it can cause irreversible changes to the structure of your airway, possibly leading to blockages and long-term loss of lung function.

How Does It Happen?

Just like renovating your house takes time, so does airway remodelling. Over time, as your asthma symptoms are left uncontrolled or untreated, the actual structure of your airway will change; the longer you leave your asthma untreated the more likely it is that airway remodelling will occur.

Airway remodelling happens when your asthma triggers inflammation in your lungs and your body tries to repair itself. Imagine it like a cut on your arm; your body mends the cut by forming scar tissue. With airway remodelling the cells in your airway are damaged and so your body tries to heal by thickening the membrane below those cells. More blood vessels form and the layer of smooth muscle surrounding the airway increases, altering the structure and function of your airway, possibly leading to bronchoconstriction and an irreversible decrease in lung function.

How Can I Prevent It?

Airways remodelling is a real concern for anyone who has asthma. Leaving your symptoms unchecked can have lifelong consequences. The good news is that airway remodelling may be somewhat reversible and preventable.

The best way to prevent airway remodelling is to control your asthma symptoms. Following a treatment plan and using a controller medication that reduces airway inflammation will result in less remodelling. The less asthma symptoms you experience the less airway remodelling will occur. It all comes down to controlling your asthma and keeping your symptoms in check.

Some remodelled airways have been found to return towards normal structure when proper treatment is followed. People with asthma already have enough trouble breathing; take control of your asthma to prevent airway remodelling.

Additional Research on Airway Remodelling 

If you would like to learn more about the mechanisms of Airway Remodelling, we encourage you to check out the research of Diana Pham, one of the recipients of the Asthma Canada/AllerGen Goran-Enhorning Graduate Student Research Award.

Diana Pham is a Master of Science student at the University of Calgary with Dr. Richard Leigh. She is conducting research to expand our knowledge on the molecular mechanisms contributing to the development of asthma. Her findings will help determine an appropriate pharmaceutical target or preventative measure for the airway remodelling that occurs in early childhood asthmatics.

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