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Asthma is now categorized into different types based on a variety of factors. It is no longer considered a single disease. Understanding the differences between each type can help patients manage their condition better.

Asthma is an inflammatory lung illness that causes the airways to swell and narrow. Allergens, exercise, colds, or other irritants can trigger it. When asthma symptoms onset, the airways may become so narrowed that breathing becomes difficult. 

It affects over 300 million people worldwide. Common symptoms include shortness of breath, chest tightness, coughing, and wheezing. Asthma is treated with medications and natural supplementation. However, it is essential to understand that while one can manage it, no cure exists.

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Understanding How the Body Responds to Asthma-Related Inflammation

Inflammation plays a key role in asthma, as it causes the airways to narrow, preventing one from breathing normally. Inflammation can onset as a response to exposure to dust mites, pet dander, mold, and pollen. 

Environmental irritants like air pollution or smoke, exercise, colds, or other respiratory infections can also trigger the condition. Older adults exposed to ambient particulate air pollution with a smoking history have an increased chance of the onset of asthma symptoms.

Researchers believe four biological pathways impact how the body responds to the inflammation that onsets asthma. Each determines what triggers asthma as well as the severity of symptoms.

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Non-inflammatory (Paucigranulocytic)

Non-inflammatory, or paucigranulocytic asthma, is the most common type. Allergies, environmental irritants, and exercise-induced asthma usually cause it. Symptoms include mild to moderate wheezing, chest tightness, and coughing.

Eosinophilic 

Eosinophilic asthma occurs when the airways become inflamed. It happens due to increased eosinophils. Eosinophils are white blood cells that protect the body from parasites. It affects both adults and children. 

Symptoms include coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. Allergens like dust mites, pet dander, mold, and pollen are the most common triggers for this type of asthma.

Neutrophilic

Neutrophilic asthma is another type of asthma caused by an increase in the level of neutrophils, a form of white blood cell that works inside the immune system to help the body fight infection. This type of asthma tends to be more severe than eosinophilic asthma though it has the same symptoms. 

However, it usually onsets as a result of a bacterial infection. Common symptoms include coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath.

Hybrid Eosinophilic and Neutrophilic

Hybrid eosinophilic and neutrophilic asthma is a combination of both types of asthma. This type of asthma is generally more severe than eosinophilic or neutrophilic asthma and is often triggered by both allergens and bacterial infections. 

Curious about asthma self-management strategies? Check out Smartphone Apps for Asthma Awareness to learn how the Asma Droid app can help you better manage your asthma symptoms.

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a woman grabbing her chest

Different Types of Asthma

Asthma is now categorized into eight categories.

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Allergic Asthma

Allergic asthma is the most common type. It usually gets triggered by allergens like dust mites, pet dander, mold, and pollen. Sometimes, food, drink, or medication intolerance can also trigger asthma symptoms.

Aspirin-induced Asthma

Aspirin-induced asthma is caused by taking aspirin or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). It is more common in adults and can be triggered by taking just one pill.

Cough-variant Asthma

Cough-variant asthma is identified by coughing as the only symptom, without any other accompanying symptoms such as wheezing or chest tightening. Allergens, irritants, and medications like aspirin can cause it.

Exercise-induced Asthma

Exercise-induced asthma onsets due to physical activity. This type of asthma usually affects athletes but can affect anyone who exercises regularly.

Nocturnal Asthma

Nocturnal asthma occurs during the night. Allergens usually cause it. Nocturnal asthma can cause difficulty breathing, coughing, wheezing, and chest tightness. Dry air, cold temperatures, and stress can also trigger it.

Occupational Asthma

Occupational asthma results from exposure to certain chemicals or irritants in the workplace. Common triggers include dust, fumes, vapors, and gasses.

Steroid-Resistant Asthma 

Steroid-resistant asthma does not respond to steroid treatments. The cause of this type is unknown, but researchers believe it to be due to inflammation of the small airways in the lungs.

Asthma-COPD Overlap Syndrome (ACOS)

Asthma-COPD overlap syndrome (ACOS) combines asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It is characterized by inflammation in the airways, similar to asthma, but also has symptoms of COPD, like chronic bronchitis and impaired lung function. ACOS is generally more severe than either asthma or COPD alone. 

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No matter what type of asthma one has, the intensity of symptoms can still depend on risk factors such as chronic illness, obesity, smoking, and allergies. 

Do you want to know the role the environment plays in the intensity of your child’s allergy symptoms? Check out Residential Greenspace Reduces Asthma Symptoms in Children to understand how much your location could impact your child’s asthma.

Related: Caregiver Social Support and Depressive Symptoms Affect Child Asthma Control

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How Severe Is Your Asthma?

The severity of asthma depends on how one has symptoms and how much they impact daily activities.

Mild asthma causes occasional symptoms that usually don’t interfere with daily activities. Moderate asthma occurs when one has symptoms more than twice a week but not daily. 

Severe asthma is characterized by having symptoms every day or almost every day. Those with severe asthma don’t respond well to standard treatment such as inhaled corticosteroids and may require daily medications like corticosteroids or leukotriene modifiers.

Doctors may recommend an inhaler or nebulizer to help manage symptoms for mild to moderate asthma patients. Doctors may also suggest lifestyle changes such as avoiding triggers, exercising regularly, and eating a healthy diet.

It’s important for patients to work with their physicians to determine the best treatment plan for their specific type of asthma. Patients can live an active and healthy life with asthma with proper treatment and management.