Different Types of Asthma to Be Aware Of
If you or someone you love has recently been diagnosed with asthma, it can be confusing coming to terms with the many different types of the condition there are. While it’s important to remember that everyone will have a different experience of asthma, understanding the different varieties can help you make more sense of your diagnosis. Here are some of the different types of asthma to be aware of, and the ways in which the condition is managed.
How Is Asthma Managed?
Regardless of the type of asthma you have, most cases are managed and controlled in the same way. This is by:
- Having regular asthma reviews with your GP or nurse, to check your asthma is well-controlled
- Using a preventer inhaler every day (if prescribed to do so by your GP or nurse)
- Using a reliever inhaler (the standard blue asthma pump) when asthma symptoms arise (if prescribed to do so by your GP or nurse)
- Having an asthma plan written down for you, including information such as the ways in which your asthma affects you, and how it is managed day-to-day.
Types Of Asthma
In the UK alone, asthma affects approximately 1.1 million children. Some children who are diagnosed with asthma may find that the condition improves, or even in some cases disappears, as they grow older – this is why it is known as childhood asthma. For some though, the symptoms of asthma can return in the future, especially if they have suffered from a moderate or severe case of it.
Many people can be diagnosed with asthma for the first time as an adult – known as adult-onset asthma. While each case will vary patient to patient, possible causes of adult-onset asthma can include obesity, smoking or second-hand smoking, occupational asthma, stress or even hormones – with women more likely than men to develop the condition.
Atopic asthma (also known as allergic asthma) is when the condition is triggered by allergens such as pets, pollen or dust mites. Around 80% of people who suffer from atopic asthma also suffer from related conditions like hay fever, eczema or food allergies. For patients with this type of asthma, GP’s will recommend that asthma triggers are identified and avoided as much as possible. They are also likely to prescribe a preventer inhaler to use daily, and a reliever inhaler to use when symptoms arise.
Occupational asthma is a form of asthma that is caused by the work you do – asthma symptoms improve for sufferers of the condition on the days they’re not at work. Occupational asthma is different from asthma that is triggered or made worse when you go to work, and is instead more like a type of allergic asthma. Those who work in bakeries, for instance, may find they’re allergic to the flour dust, or those in the healthcare sector, may be allergic to the latex gloves – causing asthma symptoms.
Though asthma is a long-term condition, some people are symptom-free when they’re away from their triggers, and instead only have their asthma flare up at certain times of the year – this is known as seasonal asthma. This isn’t just for those suffering during the warmer months in hay fever season, but patients can also have flare-ups in the colder months of the year, too.
Some people, who don’t have a GP diagnosis of asthma, can suffer from asthma-like symptoms when they exercise. This is often referred to as exercise-induced asthma, though a more accurate term is exercise-induced bronchoconstriction. Bronchoconstriction isn’t actually caused by asthma; however, it can affect those doing strenuous exercises (such as elite athletes) in extremely cold conditions.
There are some people who suffer from asthma who have what’s known as difficult asthma – referring to asthma that’s difficult to manage. The asthma itself may be difficult to manage for a number of different reasons, but the most common are as a result of other health issues and forgetting to take preventative medicine to help manage the asthma.
Signs of difficult asthma include needing to use a reliever inhaler three or more times in a week, having asthma symptoms that don’t go away (even with high doses of medicines or treatments) and having frequent asthma attacks. Those who suffer from difficult asthma should speak to their GP or nurse about finding a combination of medicines that work for them personally, so that symptoms can be controlled.
Approximately 4% of people suffer from severe asthma – a type of asthma diagnosed by a specialist asthma clinic. Those suffering from severe asthma may need to take a variety of different asthma medicines, such as long-term steroids to help reduce the inflammation caused in their airways. Severe asthma is usually diagnosed to people who have had more than 2 asthma attacks in a year, have ongoing asthma symptoms despite taking high doses of steroids or medicines, have used their blue reliever inhaler three or more times in a week, and who have had their other symptoms ruled out by a doctor or specialist.
As with any medical condition, if you’re concerned about your symptoms or you’re finding your symptoms worsening, speak to your GP for further advice.