Not too long ago, most medical experts classified asthma as a single condition. However, more advanced research and detailed patient data has identified multiple forms of asthma.
Asthmatics need to understand what type of asthma they have in order to put the best treatment plan in place.
Here are the six most prevalent types of asthma.
1. Allergic Asthma
Allergic asthma occurs when someone has an allergic reaction to something they breathe. Some of the common culprits include animal dander, pollen, dust mites, cockroach droppings, and mold spores.
When these irritants enter the lungs, the body perceives them as intruders and triggers the release of chemicals to fight the threat. One of those chemicals – histamine – produces inflammation around the allergen. In the lungs, this inflammation causes the muscles to tighten; the airways to become inflamed and the production of thick mucus.
Some airborne substances can trigger an asthma attack but are not considered allergens. These include smoke, smog, strong chemical odors, and scented body sprays like perfume.
2. Exercise-Induced Asthma
While many types of asthma may generate symptoms when you are exercising, exercise-induced asthma only occurs when you are physically active.
To bring in enough oxygen during exercise, many people breathe through their mouths, which tends to bring in colder, drier air than when you’re breathing through your nose. Bodies react to the change in air by contracting the muscle bands around the lungs, narrowing air passages and producing an asthma attack.
3. Cough-Variant Asthma
Some people do not experience the wheezing of a typical asthma attack. Instead, they have a dry, persistent cough that does not produce any mucus. This cough often goes several weeks without pause and is known as cough-variant asthma.
No one knows the exact cause of cough-variant asthma. It may occur only at night. It may occur only after exposure to allergens or cold air. Patients who are taking beta-blockers or who are sensitive to aspirin also develop this form of asthma.
4. Occupational Asthma
This kind of asthma may be caused or worsened by exposure to certain substances in the workplace. It can be triggered due to an allergic reaction, being in contact with an irritant, or by the body’s build-up of chemicals in the lungs.
The triggers for occupational asthma vary. Certain metals, like chromium, platinum, and soldering fumes can irritate the lungs. Workers that breathe in dust from grains or green coffee beans can have asthma attacks. Chemicals used in the making of plastics, carpeting, insulation, and detergents are also potential triggers.
5. Nocturnal Asthma
Nighttime asthma, also known as nocturnal asthma, occurs during your sleep cycle. It triggers coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. Because it occurs when you’re asleep and unaware, it’s dangerous.
The exact cause of nocturnal asthma is unknown, but it seems to vary from one person to another. Possible triggers include exposure to allergens, breathing cooler air, lying in a reclining position or changes in hormones during sleep.
6. Health Conditions that Mimic Asthma
People with certain medical conditions think they have asthma because they experience similar symptoms. Cardiac asthma is an example of this. The patient wheezes and has shortness of breath just like a person with asthma. However, their symptoms are a result of congestive heart failure.
Anyone who suspects that they or a family member has one or more types of asthma should schedule an appointment with their doctor as soon as possible. Because asthma is so common (and a growing health problem in the U.S.), there are allergy and asthma specialists in virtually every area of the United States. Your doctor should be able to help find one that’s best for you.