Exercise Induced Laryngeal Obstruction is a breathing problem that affects people during peak exercise.
It is inappropriate narrowing of the upper airway at the level of the vocal cords and/or supraglottis (above the vocal cords).
This makes it difficult to get air into the lungs and can cause noisy laboured inhalation breathing, tightness in the throat, a feeling of suffocation. Onset is rapid and recovery is usually rapid once exercise is ceased.
It can be miss-diagnosed as exercise induced asthma and unsuccessfully treated with inhaled medication. It can co-exist with asthma. It can feel very frightening but unlike asthma it is not dangerous. It is not reflective of a person’s fitness level and can occur in the most highly trained athletes. It often occurs in adolescent or young adult athletes who are highly competitive or driven to perfection or might have underlying performance anxieties.
It is diagnosed by examining a person’s larynx during continuous exercise. Using a laryngoscope through the nose that is attached to a camera and then to a helmet to stay in place as you exercise. The movements of the vocal cords can then be examined. In EILO they will be seen to move closer together during inhalation instead of opening widely to let air in.
Part 2 of this EILO series will focus on treatments. Don’t hesitate to ask me ANY questions x