A Comprehensive Guide to the Different Types of Asthma
Asthma is a chronic lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways. Those with the condition may experience symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. In 2019, roughly 262 million people were affected by asthma worldwide, causing 455,000 deaths. While the symptoms of the disease are typically the same, there are many different types of asthma. Knowing which type you have is crucial as it will allow you to customize your asthma action plan to fit your needs, something that may ultimately save your life.
6 of the Most Common Types of Asthma
The type of asthma you have depends on what causes your symptoms. To help figure out which types of asthma you may be facing, consider taking note of what agitates your symptoms. Once you have a list of your asthma triggers, you and your doctor can work together to confirm which types of asthma you are prone to and the best ways to treat them.
1. Allergic Asthma
Allergic asthma, also known as atopic asthma, is caused by allergens such as pollen, mold, dust mites, or pet dander. This type of asthma is more common in those with related allergies like hay fever, eczema, or food allergies. Taking an over-the-counter antihistamine daily and taking extra care to avoid your triggers may lessen symptoms. Ways to avoid your triggers include:
- Wearing a mask or staying indoors when pollen counts are high
- Vacuuming often and using an air purifier to reduce dust mites
- Keeping pets out of your bedroom if you’re allergic to them
- Using a dehumidifier to reduce mold growth
If you have atopic asthma, your doctor or allergist will likely prescribe an inhaler for everyday use as a precaution and a reliever inhaler to be used if symptoms start. Allergies may strike at any moment, so it’s essential to always have your inhaler on hand. Additionally, if your allergies are severe, immunotherapy may be recommended to help you build up a tolerance to your triggers.
2. Exercise-induced Asthma
Exercise-induced asthma is a type of bronchoconstriction that happens when you do strenuous activity. If you have exercise-induced asthma, you may not have any symptoms when you’re at rest. However, once you start to exercise, you may experience coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. To help diagnose this type of asthma, your doctor may ask you to take a spirometry test.
If it is determined you have exercise-induced asthma, you may be prescribed an inhaler to take before you start working out. One of the most important things you can do to manage this type of asthma is to warm up before exercising, especially if it is cold outside. A proper warm-up will help gradually increase your body temperature and heart rate, making it less likely for you to experience symptoms.
3. Seasonal Asthma
For some people, their asthma is only triggered during certain times of the year. This is called seasonal asthma, and it’s most often brought on by pollen or when the weather is cold. If you notice you have asthma flare-ups at the same time each year, it’s likely you have seasonal asthma. To help combat the condition, you may need to use an inhaler during the season your symptoms are the worst. If you have seasonal asthma, you may want to consider getting a pollen calendar for your area. This will help you know when pollen counts are high so you can take extra precautions.
4. Occupational Asthma
In some cases, asthma may be related to the work you do. This is called occupational asthma, and it tends to be more common in people who work in manufacturing, agriculture, healthcare, or food service. For example, if you are a healthcare worker, an allergy to latex gloves or cleaning chemicals may trigger your asthma. If you work in agriculture, you may be exposed to allergens like animal dander, pesticides, or dust from hay. Occupational asthma doesn’t mean you have to give up your job, but it may require working with your employer to create a safe work environment.
5. Non-allergic Asthma
Non-allergic asthma, sometimes called non-atopic or intrinsic asthma, is less common than atopic asthma and often harder to treat. Intrinsic asthma usually develops in adults and may be more severe than other types of asthma. This is because the exact cause of non-allergic asthma is unknown. However, it is thought to be related to:
- Respiratory infections
- Hormone changes
- Irritants or pollution in the air
The best way to manage non-allergic asthma is to work with your doctor to find the right treatment plan for you. This may include using an inhaler or corticosteroids to decrease inflammation in the airways. Additionally, you may need to avoid triggers like smoke or pollution.
6. Asthma-COPD Overlap Syndrome (ACOS)
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a progressive lung disease that makes it hard to breathe. Asthma and COPD share many of the same symptoms, which may make diagnosis difficult. Some people may have both asthma and COPD, which is known as asthma-COPD overlap syndrome (ACOS). Those with ACOS tend to have symptoms more frequently than those with asthma or COPD alone. ACOS is often defined as persistent airflow obstruction with symptoms of asthma. To diagnose ACOS, your doctor will likely examine your medical history, conduct a physical exam, and order tests such as X-rays or CT scans.
Breathe Easier with Northeast Allergy
Do you suspect you may have asthma but aren’t sure which type? At Northeast Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, we can determine the diagnosis and create an asthma action plan designed specifically for you. Our providers are passionate about helping you take control of your asthma and improve your quality of life. Contact us to schedule an appointment and start breathing easier today.