Asthma is a serious chronic lung disease, which is associated with the inflammation of the airways of the lung that makes breathing difficult. Untreated asthma can be dangerous as it can lead to scarring of the lung, respiratory failure, sleeping disorder etc. For effective treatment of asthma, it is essential to know the types of asthma.
Types of Asthma
Allergy Induced Asthma (Extrinsic)
Asthma arises due to an allergy called allergy induced asthma (Atopic asthma/Allergic asthma). This mainly occurs when an individual inhales allergens (substances that cause an allergic reaction) such as dust mites, pollen, mold, fungi, pet hair, feces or saliva etc. The immune system of the allergy induced asthma person instantly identifies the allergen as threat and immediately the body reacts by discharging antibodies known as immunoglobulin E. This causes the immune system cells to discharge elements that results in inflammation of the lungs.
Asthma without Allergy (Intrinsic)
Some irritants in the air are not associated with allergies. Intrinsic asthma is a non-allergic form of asthma that can be triggered by exposure to cold, dry air, damp weather, smoke, perfume, air freshener and respiratory infection (cold, flu and rhinovirus). This type of asthma is persistent in nature rather than episodic and is more common among adults than in children.
This type of asthma narrows the airways during or after exercise. It triggers due to over exertion or strenuous workout. The symptoms of EIB can occur within few minutes after or during exercise. One can also experience exercise induced asthma after 4to 12 hours post exercise and it can persist up to 24 hours.
Cough Variant Asthma (CVA)
Cough variant asthma is a type of asthma which is characterized by persistent and dry hacking cough. Individuals having CVA does not manifest any asthma symptoms like shortness of breath, wheezing, tightness in the chest etc. It is actually a milder form of asthma and the risk of narrowing airways is comparatively low. Children are mostly affected with CVA rather than adults.
The symptom of this type of asthma is more prevalent during the night. Nocturnal asthma has the same symptoms similar to the regular asthma. This can occur due to body’s sleep cycle, dustmites, pet danger etc. It was reported in a series of surveys that around 45 to 75% of the asthmatic patients from different countries were of nocturnal asthmatic patients.
Occupational asthma triggers when elements such as gases, fumes, paints, rubber latex, dyes, molds, and dust from wood, grain and flour are found in the workplace. The chemicals and the irritating toxic substance on the job make it difficult to breathe causing the air passages of the lungs to narrow and swell. These are found in industries like manufacturing, textile, farming etc.
Diagnosis of Asthma
Diagnosis of asthma is done based on the medical history, physical exam and lung function test that helps in providing the right picture of the health of the patient. Inform the doctor if you have any food allergy, hay fever (allergic rhinitis), eczema, long-term nasal congestion (chronic rhino sinusitis), heartburn or reflux in the past for asthma checkup.
For Asthma checkups, the following tests are done:
- Spirometry: Spirometry is a standard test doctors use to measure the lung function for asthma. The test provides the information about how blocked the airways are and how much and how quickly the patient can inhale and exhale air. Basically it measures the airflow into and out of the lungs.
- Allergy testing: Allergy tests are done to identify any linkage between the allergen and asthma symptoms. During asthma check-up, doctor may ask for a blood test (specific IgE), patch test (small amount of allergen is placed on the skin and covered with a bandage to check for the result) or may be a skin test (tiny amount of allergen is injected under the skin to check for the result). If the patients have severe allergic asthma, the doctor may suggest few medications that can make the patients less sensitive to allergens.
- High Eosinophil: Eosinophils, also known as acidophils is a form of white blood cells. This blood test measures the count of eosinophils in the body. Higher eosinophil indicates more severe asthma and is common in patients, who have allergic asthma.
- Nitric oxide testing: An exhaled nitric oxide(eNo) test is done to measure the amount of nitric oxide gas is exhaled.Swelling or inflammation of lung airways can be associated with the amount of exhaled nitric oxide.
Inhalers are used for asthma treatment but there are several medications that can also help. Most individuals with asthma problems seek for two kinds: quick relief antidote and long term control antidote. Immunotherapy i.e., allergy shots are also helpful.