Asthma: What Are Its Types?
by MedPlus Team, April 19, 2022
Asthma is an inflammatory respiration disease. It makes breathing difficult and also can make some physical activities difficult or impossible. It is a noncommunicable disease that affects both children and adults. Due to inflammation and tightening of the muscles around the small airways, the air passages become narrow. This narrowing of the air passage causes cough, wheezing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. These symptoms are intermittent and may also get worse at night or during exercise. Other external “triggers” can make symptoms worse. Triggers vary from one person to another, these include viral infections like cold, smoke, dust, fumes, grass and tree pollen, weather changes, strong soaps, animal fur and feathers, and perfume.
Also read: 10 Most Common Triggers of Asthma & How to Avoid Them
Asthma Impact On Daily Life
Compared to adults this is most common in children. According to the WHO, nearly 37 million in India are asthmatics. India contributes 11.1% of the global burden and over 42% of related deaths making it the asthma capital of the world. Under-treated people can suffer sleep disturbance, tiredness during the day, and poor concentration. People suffering from this respiratory illness and their families may miss school and work which shows the financial impact on both family and community.
Types Of Asthma
Knowing the type of respiratory disease that you are suffering from helps in diagnosing it and managing it not become severe. But it is not that easy to know by which type you are suffering. Because the impact is different in every individual makes it is hard to put it into exact categories. Let us see the different types.
- Difficult asthma
- Severe asthma
- Childhood asthma
Atopic asthma is the other name for this. It is triggered by allergens such as pollen, pets, and dust mites. About 80% of people who are suffering from this type have a related condition like hay fever, or eczema, or food allergies. Your doctor prescribes a preventer inhaler to take every day and a reliever inhaler to take when you are having symptoms. It is strictly advised to avoid triggers as much as possible.
Few people have this respiratory disorder that only flares up at certain times of the year, such as during hay fever season and when it is cold. While this respiratory disorder is always a long-term condition but it is possible to be symptom-free when your triggers aren’t around. The main thing that he/she who is suffering from this seasonal respiratory illness must cope with is seasonal triggers like pollen and the weather.
It is also known as non-atopic asthma which is quite opposite of atopic asthma. It is not get triggered by pollen or dust and is not as common as allergic asthma. The main cause of this illness is unknown but it gets severe in later life. If you are feeling any symptoms consult your doctor without any delay.
The name itself denotes that it is caused directly by the work we do. There are two ways to tell whether you are suffering from this type.
- If the symptoms started as an adult and
- If the symptoms improve on the days when we are not at work.
The tiny particles and any objects at our workplace can trigger these symptoms. Conjunctivitis and rhinitis are also symptoms of this type. If you think you may have this respiratory disorder, book an appointment to see your doctor so that you can get the right help. Managing triggers that you might come across at your work such as indoor environment and workplace stress.
In some cases, this respiratory illness is difficult to manage because of other health issues such as allergies. It may also be forgetting to take a preventer inhaler. The signs are:
- These symptoms don’t go away even with high doses of medicines and add-on treatments.
- The need of using a reliever inhaler three or more times a week is a warning sign of attack.
- Frequent attacks are also a reason.
If you have this type you should be able to find a combination of medicines that work for you with the help of your doctor. Also, you need to see a specialist to know why it is difficult to control and look at different treatments.
Some people get symptoms triggered only by exercise. This is known as exercise-induced asthma. It is also known as exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB). This is because of the tightening and narrowing of airways not caused by having this illness. Elite athletes or people doing strenuous exercise in very cold conditions may get affected by EIB. Irrespective of diagnosis and you are getting symptoms like tight chest, coughing, breathlessness, or fatigue during or after exercising contact your doctor. He will run some tests like:
- Spirometry test: Your doctor will test your lung function to make sure you don’t have underlying asthma.
- Exercise challenge tests: It is a treadmill or other equipment. It is a way to see how your airways are reacting to exercise. Conducting spirometry tests before and after exercise tests can show whether you have exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB) or not.
- Treatment: After the tests, your doctor gives you treatments that help with the symptoms so that you can continue to exercise safely. It might be reliever medicine to take immediately before your medicine.
Around 4% of people with this respiratory disease know what severe asthma is and it is diagnosed in a specialist asthma clinic. You need to get diagnosed if:
- You had more than two attacks in the past year.
- Still, you are having symptoms after taking high doses of inhaled steroids and have tried a long-acting bronchodilator or a preventer tablet (LTRA).
- Using a blue reliever inhaler three or more times a week.
You may need several medicines if you are suffering from this type. For example, long-term steroid tablets reduce inflammation in the airways. Some people are treated with a new class of medicines known as biologics. These can help to better control your symptoms and reduce attacks.
The symptoms may improve or disappear in some children diagnosed with this illness as they get older. This is known as childhood asthma. It may also get return later in life, especially if it’s moderate or severe rather than mild. In India, about 3% i.e. 30 million patients, with a prevalence of 2.4% in adults aged greater than 15 years, and between 4% and 20% in children.
It often starts in childhood, but some people get diagnosed for the first time when they are an adult. This is known as adult-onset or late-onset asthma. Some of the possible causes are:
- Occupational asthma accounts for 9-15% of adult-onset asthma
- Smoking and secondhand smoking
- Obesity, although this isn’t directly linked
- Female hormones can be linked to causing and may be one of the reasons women are more likely to develop it than men
- Stressful life events
By reading this article, you may get an idea of what the types of asthma are there? Based on these you can get an idea of which type you are suffering from and how to get diagnosed with that particular type by consulting your doctor.