Types of Asthma

The Different Types of Asthma

Understanding your Asthma Type can Help You Lead a Healthier Life

Asthma involves a long-term lung condition that causes the narrowing of the airways called bronchoconstriction. It also causes swelling or inflammation of the airways. The American Lung Association estimates that in the United States, almost 25 million people have various types of asthma.

Asthma symptoms can come and go. Infection, environmental triggers, and stress can all lead to an asthma attack.

Everyone may experience asthma differently; their symptoms may vary in frequency and severity. There are also different forms or types of asthma.

Although there is currently no cure for asthma, treatments help prevent flare-ups and reduce symptoms. The first step in controlling asthma is becoming aware of which type you may have.

Forms of Asthma

There are several different forms of asthma. Some people may also have two or more forms. For instance, it is possible to have exercise-induced asthma, allergic asthma, and adult-onset asthma.

Below is more information on the various types of asthma.

Allergic Asthma

According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, there is a link between having allergies and asthma. If you have allergic asthma, you are sensitive to certain allergens. Allergic asthma is one of the most common types of asthma.

There is no clear cause of allergic asthma, but for some people, their immune system reacts to a harmless substance as if it were dangerous, leading to a response by the immune system, which may include asthma symptoms.

Symptoms of Allergic Asthma Include:

  • Shortness of breath.
  • Wheezing.
  • Coughing.
  • Chest tightness.

Symptoms often start right after you come in contact with the allergen. Once you determine your allergens, you can develop ways to reduce exposure to triggers.

Cough-variant Asthma

Cough-variant asthma differs from other forms of asthma in that it usually does not cause all the typical symptoms present with other types of asthma. The main symptom is coughing. It develops due to inflammation of the bronchial tubes going to the lungs.

Typical symptoms of cough-variant asthma include:

  • Coughing without mucus production.
  • Worsening cough at night.
  • Sleep disruption from coughing.

Non-allergic Asthma

Non-allergic asthma is asthma symptoms that do not start due to exposure to an allergen. Instead, something else may trigger symptoms, such as cold weather or stress. The symptoms of non-allergic asthma are the same as the symptoms of allergic asthma.


Asthma frequently starts in childhood. But adult-onset asthma develops a bit later and can start during the adult years. Researchers do not know why some people develop adult-onset asthma. One possible explanation is that adults may have always had allergic asthma but managed to avoid their allergens for years.

A significant respiratory infection, such as pneumonia, may also trigger adult-onset asthma. Symptoms of adult-onset asthma include:

  • Chest tightness.
  • A cough.
  • Wheezing.

Exercise-induced Bronchoconstriction

It is helpful to understand that exercise does not cause asthma, but it may lead to constriction of the airways in people susceptible to asthma.

Symptoms of exercise-induced asthma include:

  • Coughing.
  • Reduced exercise endurance.
  • Trouble catching your breath.

Typically, exercise-induced bronchoconstriction starts a few minutes after starting the activity. It may become worse if a person exercises in cold, dry air, which can irritate the lungs.

Asthma/COPD Overlap

Asthma and COPD are both lung conditions and may differ in causes and some treatments. COPD, which is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is a progressive disease. Asthma is not considered progressive, although the severity of symptoms can change.

One of the main causes of COPD is cigarette smoking. Some people develop just COPD alone, while others have only asthma. But it is possible to develop both COPD and asthma.

The symptoms of asthma/COPD overlap include:

  • Shortness of breath.
  • Coughing.
  • Excess mucus production.
  • Wheezing.
  • Chest tightness.
  • Fatigue.
  • Low oxygen level.

Occupational Asthma

Occupational asthma is triggered by exposure to something in a person’s work environment. Certain workers might have an increased risk of developing occupational asthma due to the chemicals or substances they work around. For example, common triggers may include paint fumes, dust, and soil.

Sometimes, it can take several months after exposure to the occupational trigger for symptoms to develop. In other instances, asthma symptoms develop very soon after exposure to the allergen in the work environment.

Symptoms of occupational asthma are similar to other forms of asthma, such as:

  • Shortness of breath.
  • Chest tightness.
  • Coughing, dry or productive.

Treatment for asthma is often similar regardless of the type. It is important to determine what causes an increase in asthma symptoms and develop ways to avoid those triggers.

Medication also often plays a role in treatment. Asthma medication is available that helps reduce inflammation, dilate the airways, and improve breathing.

Lifestyle modifications may also help, such as not smoking, getting to a healthy weight, and exercising. Developing an asthma action plan helps you understand what to do to prevent an asthma attack and treat symptoms if they develop.

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