Asthma: Types, Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Evidence Based Article 📄
This article has been based on relevant and up-to-date scientific studies. Our writers are unbiased and objective and present the facts as they are known. Numbers in brackets within the article refer to sources included in the reference list at the end of the article.

The life-threatening airway disease, asthma is a chronic condition where severe lung inflammation triggers increased mucus, narrow and swollen airways, chest tightening, shortness of breath, a characteristic wheeze, and coughing, among the other symptoms.

Even though in most cases asthma begins in childhood, scientists claim that both asthma and allergies can strike you at any age. Despite being a well-known disease, asthma has different types and causes, and symptoms.

Luckily it’s curable and preventable. If you need to learn everything about this disease, let me point you in the right direction.

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What are the most common types of asthma?

There are several various types of asthma and each one is caused by different culprits and requires a special treatment. The treatment highly depends on the environmental triggers, allergens, and of course, the type of asthma. Below are the most common types of asthma:

1.Allergic asthma

Allergic asthma happens when an allergy becomes triggering the worst symptoms of asthma. Pollens, roaches, mold, pets, and other common allergens cause allergies that are hard to deal with, without a special medical treatment.

Food sensitivities can trigger allergic asthma too. After all, the foods you eat each day are linked to the toxic burden that places a pressure onto your body.

Scientists found a huge correlation between cheese, cow’s milk, and casein and asthma. Sugar, yeast, and gluten are the culprits as well. An elimination diet can help with it.

2.Non-allergic asthma

You might also be suffering from asthma that isn’t triggered by allergy. Typically, an upper respiratory infection, such as rhinovirus, cold, and flu, can set off asthma.

When you suffer from cold or/and flu symptoms, your doctor is more likely to prescribe you a small 10 to 14-day course of inhaled corticosteroids.

Scientists have conducted multiple studies that involved people with asthma eliminating most common food sensitivities and allergies, and eating a clean diet comprised of vegetables, fruits, low glycemic index protein, and nuts.

The aim was to figure out the triggers of asthma. The results showed that each person diagnosed with asthma had a chronic inflammatory condition.

This means that if you treat a chronic inflammation in your body, you’ll be able to reduce your risk of asthma. When you have no inflammation, your bronchials are less likely to constrict. Moreover, your mast cells don’t activate, decreasing the likelihood of developing an asthma attack.

3.Occupational asthma

This type of asthma occurs when any inhaled irritants at work cause an asthma attack. It can be anything from a smoke and an irritant like chlorine to chemicals like paint. Many people confuse the symptoms with allergy, but a long-term exposure to irritants can lead to a serious form of asthma.

4.Cough variant

If you have a dry hacking cough, chances are you’re suffering from asthma. Cough variant impacts kids and adults alike and can occur during the day and night. When dealing with this type of asthma, it’s vital to watch your vitamin D intake.

5.Exercise-related asthma

If any form of sports activity or physical exertion leads to chest tightness, difficulty breathing, and coughing that fade away as soon as you stop exercising, you might be suffering from an exercise-related asthma.

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There are many reasons why an asthma attack occurs during workouts. In most cases, it’s because of lung irritants, such as a cigarette smoke, perfume, or cold air.

6.Aspirin exacerbated respiratory disease

Caused by a long-term intake of aspirin, aspirin exacerbated respiratory disease has the symptoms like a runny nose, sneezing, rhinitis, and nasal polyps, among the others. The aspirin sensitivity is rare but possible. If you take aspirin and you start experiencing a stuffy nose and sneezing, which causes difficulty breathing and wheezing, you might have the type of asthma called aspirin exacerbated respiratory disease.

What are the most common causes of asthma?

There’s no exact reason why some people develop asthma. The environment and a family history seem to play an important role here, but there are some other triggers to consider.

People with a sensitive breathing have an increased risk of asthma. When they breathe in the allergy-causing substances or contact with the things, plants, or pets that triggers allergic reactions, an asthma attack occurs. The major triggers are cockroach allergens, dust mites, pollens, and molds.

Exercise, respiratory infections, stress, cold air, tobacco smoke, food sulfites, and most air pollutants might lead to asthma symptoms. Certain factors can trigger asthma in some individuals than in others.

Scientists keep conducting researchers to find out the causes of asthma. Some suggest that obesity and lower socioeconomic status can lead to asthma as well. More research is required to prove this fact, though.

What are the symptoms and signs of asthma?

The symptoms greatly depend on the type of asthma you are suffering from, yet the most typical ones are:

  • Shortness of breath. Most people with asthma claim that they have difficulty catching their breath during an asthma attack. Moreover, they also start feeling out of breath. It feels like you are unable to get an air out of the lungs.
  • The tightness in the chest area. It feels like something is sitting, squeezing, or stuck on the chest.
  • It is a squeaky or whistling sound that happens when breathing.
  • Asthma attacks are often followed with coughing. It gets worse early in the morning or during the sleep, making it difficult to fall asleep and causing a morning anxiety.

The symptoms of asthma can come and go with the asthma triggers or season change or persist on a daily basis. In the spring or fall, the symptoms of asthma might get worse, particularly in people with pollen or mold allergies.

A lot of the signs and symptoms of asthma aren’t specific and might indicate some other diseases or condition other than asthma.

For instance, the symptoms, such as lightheadedness, chest discomfort, fatigue, palpitations, and shortness of breath might be a warning signal that you’re developing a serious disease, including cancer.

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How to diagnose asthma

The asthma diagnosis starts with a physical examination and detailed medical history of a patient. One doctor can set a diagnosis of asthma, albeit other specialists like pulmonologists or allergists might be involved too.

Your doctor can ask you about your family history of any allergic or asthmatic conditions. They can also ask about your personal history of conditions such as respiratory infections, bronchitis, or allergic rhinitis that is features the symptoms like difficulty breathing, wheezing, and coughing, especially during the night or with exercise.

Moreover, your doctor might require the following diagnostic procedures to diagnose asthma:

  • Blood testing is required to figure out the type of asthma you might be suffering from. The blood tests involve checking the amount of allergic antibodies or eosinophils, which are the specific white blood cells usually linked to extrinsic or allergic asthma.
  • Provocation testing like a methacholine challenge might be needed to diagnose asthma. The test checks airway hyper-responsiveness, which is characterized by the breathing tubes narrowing or constricting in response to various irritants and allergens. The negative methacholine challenge reduces the likelihood of developing asthma. A doctor can also measure an “allergic” inflammation called sputum eosinophils, or ask for chest imaging that helps to reveal a hyperinflation. Cardiac testing might also be needed to track the symptoms of asthma.
  • Skin testing for aeroallergens is the next important test to do when diagnosis asthma. The presence of any sensitivity to an environmental allergy boosts the risk of asthma. Sometimes, skin testing is more useful than blood testing when it comes to looking for environmental allergies.
  • Measurement of exhaled nitric oxide is done by a relatively simple and quick breathing way, similar to the next testing method called spirometry. The increased levels of the exhaled nitric oxide trigger allergy-related inflammation that eventually can cause asthma.
  • The lung function testing helps to measure a lung function while you breathe into a special tube. If your lung function gets significantly better after the administration of albuterol, a bronchodilator that helps to confirm or deny the diagnosis of asthma. The regular lung function testing doesn’t indicate the likelihood of asthma.

How to treat asthma

Unfortunately, asthma has no cure as it’s a serious long-term disease. However, you can control your asthma symptoms and reduce their intensity. The treatment of asthma starts with:

  • Eliminate troublesome and chronic symptoms, like shortness of breath and coughing;
  • Keep healthy lung function;
  • Lower your intake of quick-relief medications;
  • Ward off asthma attacks that require a special medical care and treatment.
  • Keep your regular activity level and improve your sleep during the night.

You can control asthma yet be careful with taming your child’s asthma. Kids older than 10 -and younger kids can take an active part in treating their asthma. This includes:

  • Undergoing an individual medical treatment to prevent other conditions that interfere with the symptoms of asthma.
  • Eliminating asthma triggers. But, make sure you don’t completely avoid a trigger such as exercise. Exercise is essential for your health so ask your doctor about medications that will make physical activity easier for you.
  • Create and stick to an asthma action plan. This plan will give you instructions on taking your medications timely, checking your asthma control level, staying active, responding to the hard-to-manage symptoms of asthma, and looking for an emergency care whenever you need it.
  • There are two kinds of medications that help to treat asthma: quick-relief or rescue and long-term control medications. Quick-relief medications help to ease an asthma attack and ease the symptoms while the long-term control ones help to fight airway inflammation and thus ward off the symptoms of asthma.
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The treatment usually depends on the severity of the asthma symptoms. The asthma action plan aims to control the symptoms of asthma, preventing the attacks.

In case your asthma is well controlled, you might start taking little to no medications at all. If your asthma symptoms get worse than a doctor may prescribe more medications.

The situation becomes complicated with pregnant women, little kids, and other people who experience the exercise-related asthma symptoms.

The most widely used medications to treat asthma include:

  • Short-acting bronchodilators that eliminate the asthma symptoms, especially during a physical activity.
  • Inhaled steroids, such as beclomethasone, budesonids, mometasone, fluticasone, ciclesonid, and flunisolide, which take a special place in an anti-inflammatory therapy.
  • Leukotriene modifiers that can help to combat inflammation that triggers asthma.
  • Long-acting bronchodilators are sometimes included in inhaled corticosteroids as an additive therapy. These bronchodilators must never be taken alone when dealing with asthma.
  • Anticholinergic agents like tiotropium, ipratropium, and umeclidinium that aid in reducing the sputum production.
  • Anti-IL5 treatment is often used to treat eosinophilic asthma.
  • Anti-IgE treatment helps to treat allergic asthma.
  • Chromones control allergic cells (mast cells) , however it’s rarely prescribed by a doctor.
  • Systemic steroids, which are powerful anti-inflammatory agents, which take a huge part in treating asthma exacerbations yet provides a host of negative side effects, especially if you use them chronically or repeatedly.
  • Theophylline aids in freeing the airways and is used with bronchodilation. Again, there are tons of side effects, so make doctors avoid tTheophylline
  • Allergy shots or immunotherapy help to reduce medication reliance in a certain type of asthma, including allergic asthma.
  • A number of additional monoclonal antibodies can be used to treat asthma, but more research is required to be done on this.

Unlike other health issues, there are no effective home remedies that help to treat asthma. Asthma can lead to serious complications, including death, so seek a medical help if you notice the signs and symptoms of this condition.

Don’t forget to avoid all the things that can trigger an asthma attack. It can be difficult to do, but is a must if you want to avoid all the side effects of medications that promise to cure asthma.