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Asthma Learning Center

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What is Asthma?

Asthma is an inflammatory disease of the lungs that often makes breathing difficult and causes attacks of coughing, wheezing, tightness in the chest, and shortness of breath. Asthma symptoms occur when the lining of the air passages swell and the muscles surrounding the airways tighten. Mucus fills the airways, further reducing the amount of air that can pass through them and causing an asthma attack.

Types of Asthma 

Asthma is sometimes referred to as bronchial asthma because it involves the narrowing of the bronchial airways. The distinction is often made between childhood asthma and adult-onset asthma, when symptoms don’t appear until at least the age of 20. Other types of asthma include :

Allergic Asthma (Extrinsic Asthma)

Allergic asthma is triggered by allergens, such as pet dander, food preservatives, mold, or pollen. Allergic asthma is more likely to be seasonal because it often goes hand-in-hand with allergies that are also seasonal.  

Non-Allergic Asthma (Intrinsic Asthma)

This type of asthma istriggered by irritants in the air that are not related to allergies – including wood or cigarette smoke, air pollution, room deodorants, household cleaning products, and perfumes. 

Cough-Variant Asthma (CVA)

Cough-variant asthma does not have the classic symptoms of asthma – such as wheezing and shortness of breath. Instead, CVA is characterized by one symptom, a persistent dry cough. Cough-variant asthma can lead to full-blown asthma that shows other asthma symptoms.

Exercise-Induced Asthma (EIA)

Exercise-induced asthma affects people during or after physical activity. EIA can occur in people who are not sensitive to classic asthma triggers such as dust, pollen, or pet dander.

Nocturnal Asthma

This type of asthma is characterized by asthma symptoms that worsen at night. Those who suffer from nocturnal asthma can also experience symptoms anytime of the day. However, certain triggers – such as heartburn, pet dander, and dust mites – can cause those symptoms to worsen at night while sleeping.

Occupational Asthma

Occupational asthma is induced by triggers that exist in a person’s workplace. Irritants and allergens include dusts, dyes, gases, fumes, animal proteins, and rubber latex that are common in a wide range of industries—including manufacturing, textiles, farming, and woodworking..

Content licensed from:

Written by: the Healthline Editorial Team
Published on Jul 29, 2010
Medically reviewed by Andrea Baird, MD

This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the care and information received from your health care provider. Please consult a health care professional with any health concerns you may have.
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