Types of Asthma
Asthma, sometimes referred to as respiratory disease, is a chronic condition that affects the lungs. When you have asthma, your airways are inflamed and narrow which results in difficulty breathing and other symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and tightness of the chest. While these are all classic symptoms of asthma, there are different types of asthma that one can be diagnosed with and they are all brought on by a variety of different triggers. The different types of asthma that can develop include the following:
- Adult-Onset Asthma
- Allergic Asthma
- Non-allergic Asthma
- Asthma-COPD Overlap
- Exercise-Induced Bronchoconstriction
- Occupational Asthma
When you are diagnosed with asthma as an adult, this is known as adult-onset asthma. There are several factors that can contribute to the development of adult-onset asthma, such as being exposed to pets or certain fumes caused by chemicals. It can also develop as a result of a viral infection, such as an upper respiratory infection.
It’s not uncommon for there to be a link between asthma and allergies, though it’s important to note that not everyone who does have allergies has asthma, just like not everyone with asthma has allergies, However, when your asthma is a result of allergies, this is known as allergic asthma. Triggers associated with this type of asthma include allergies such as dust, pollen and pet dander. Along with the classic symptoms of asthma, someone with allergic asthma may also find that their coughing is more prevalent at night or during physical activity. Symptoms of allergic asthma can also intensify as a result of other factors such as exposure to irritants in the air, weather conditions, viral respiratory infections, certain food additives, medications, and believe it or not, even stress. The most important thing to reduce your risk of an allergic-asthma attack is to know your triggers and avoid exposure to them. If you’re not sure what you’re allergic to, then you could benefit from seeing an allergist, which your family physician will be able to refer you to. Once you see an allergist and it is determined what, exactly, you’re allergic to, they can help you come up with a plan to treat those underlying allergies which will hopefully reduce your asthma-related symptoms.
Unlike allergic asthma, non-allergic asthma is not triggered by allergens. It can, however, be triggered by changes in the weather such as extreme heat or cold, viral respiratory infections, air irritants, and more. That being said, it is harder to identify the triggers of non-allergic asthma, but your physician along with an allergist will be better able to help you understand this type of asthma and come up with an appropriate plan of action to hopefully get it under control.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease – also more commonly known as COPD – is a group of different lung-related diseases that result in the obstruction of airflow, causing difficulty breathing and other symptoms. The types of diseases that are associated with COPD include emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and a severe type of asthma known as refractory asthma. When you have both asthma and COPD, this is known as asthma-COPD overlap. Along with the classic symptoms of asthma, you may also find that you have excess phlegm, have a decreased tolerance for physical activity, find you get short of breath during normal activities, and may also feel more fatigued than usual. In many cases, COPD is not diagnosed until it reaches a moderate stage, therefore it is important to pay attention to any abnormal symptoms you’re experiencing and report them to your physician right away. If left untreated, COPD can be fatal. As for what causes a condition such as COPD, it is most common in smokers – however, one can also develop it as a result of exposure to second-hand smoke and other pollutants/chemicals.
Exercise-induced bronchoconstriction – also known as EIB – is a type of asthma that occurs as a result of physical activity. While it may not be a type of asthma you’ve heard referenced that often, it actually affects as 90% of those diagnosed with asthma. Classic symptoms of asthma occur with EIB, as well as symptoms such as sore throat and upset stomach. EIB can also be triggered by exposure to cold or dry air, as well as exposure to air pollution, and even chlorine in swimming pools.
Lastly, occupational asthma. When you have this type of asthma, you likely work or have worked in an environment where you would have been exposed to things like dust, chemical fumes, or other types of irritants. In fact, there are over 250 different substances that are believed to either exacerbate or be a direct cause of occupational asthma, according to the OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration.) Those who work as wood, plastics or metal workers, are grain elevator workers, laboratory workers, drug manufacturers, detergent manufacturers, millers, farmers, and even bakers, are said to be at the highest risk of developing occupational asthma.