How Many Different Types of Asthma Are There?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that there are approximately 19 million adult Americans with asthma; this is 7.7% of the United States population. There are approximately 6.2 million children, which is about 8.4% of the children in the United States.
If you were to flip through a patient chart or scroll through an electronic medical record, 6.2% of patients would have asthma listed as a medical diagnosis. However, did you know that there are various types of asthma?
In this article, we cover the different types of asthma which include adult-onset asthma, allergic and nonallergic asthma, eosinophilic asthma, and many other common and rare types of asthma.
Asthma that occurs and diagnosed after the age of 20 is considered adult-onset asthma.
More than half of all adult-onset patients also have some form of allergies. Others may have some exposure to an irritant at work or in the home that causes the symptoms to present suddenly.
Some adults are more likely to get adult-onset asthma; these adults include the following:
- Women who are undergoing hormonal changes, such as women who are pregnant or menopausal
- Women who are taking estrogen following menopause for ten years or longer
- People who have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Those with chronic allergies, especially if they have an allergy to cats
- Those who have just suffered certain illnesses, such as colds or influenza
- People who have long-term exposure to certain environmental irritants such as cigarette smoke, feather beds, perfume, dust, and mold
It doesn't seem all that much different than asthma diagnosed in childhood, right? However, according to WebMD, there are differences: "Adults tend to have a lower forced expiratory volume (the volume of air you are able to take in and forcibly exhale in one second) after middle age because of changes in muscles and stiffening of chest walls. This decreased lung function may cause doctors to miss the diagnosis of adult-onset asthma."
Exercise-Induced Bronchoconstriction (EIB)
Remember the term "exercise-induced asthma"? It has now been replaced with "exercise-induced bronchoconstriction" because it more accurately described what happens to the lungs. It is not asthma – the lungs constrict temporarily due to a trigger (exercise).
The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology note that upwards of 90 percent of people with asthma also have EIB, but not everyone with EIB has asthma.
EIB occurs because "…the loss of heat, water or both from the airways during exercise when quickly breathing in air that is drier than what is already in the body. Symptoms typically appear within a few minutes after you start exercising and may continue for 10 to 15 minutes after you finish your workout."
Common triggers of EIB include:
- Chlorine from swimming pools
- Pollution when running or biking outdoors
- Hot air temperature when doing hot yoga
- Cold, dry air when ice skating or playing ice hockey
- Perfumes, carpeting, cleaning fumes, and new equipment in a gym when working out
If you're someone who suffers from EIB, what exercises are least likely to trigger symptoms? Studies indicate that walking, hiking, recreational biking, and sports requiring short bursts of activity may be easiest to do. These may include golf, volleyball, baseball, gymnastics, wrestling, football, and short-distance track and field.
WebMD estimates that upwards of 90% of children with asthma also have allergies, as well as 50% of adults.
Allergy triggers exacerbate asthma symptoms. When your body is "attacked" by a substance that triggers other allergy symptoms, asthma symptoms also occur. Asthma symptoms are most likely to happen when exposed to allergens that are breathed in, such as pollens, molds, and dust.
Allergies are tricky; the immune system works hard to keep us healthy. When we have allergies, our bodies are working too hard and are attacking harmless substances, and we call these substances allergens. When exposed to these allergens, our bodies produce IgE antibodies, which stimulate the release of histamine. Histamine's job is to cause swelling and inflammation, thus causing classic allergy symptoms as the body attempts to rid itself of the allergen.
Common allergic asthma triggers include:
- Pollens from trees, grasses, and weeds
- Cockroach feces
- Dust mite feces
- Animal dander and saliva
- Mold spores
Unfortunately, people with allergic asthma may also suffer an asthma attack from other irritants. This means that even irritants that don't cause an allergic reaction may stimulate an asthma attack. So, a person with allergic asthma must avoid many types of triggers. Other triggers may include:
- Tobacco smoke, as well as smoke from candles, fireplaces, and fireworks
- Dusty rooms
- Perfumes and air fresheners
- Air pollution
- Cold air
- Strong chemical odors
Fortunately, there is a treatment for allergic asthma that may be very helpful. Treatment may include allergen immunotherapy. Allergen immunotherapy is a form of treatment which focuses on decreasing your allergy symptoms.
Next page: More types of asthma you should be aware of.