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Asthma Types

Asthma Can Be Classified In Several Ways

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Updated May 28, 2010

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

There are several different asthma types, and many ways you and your doctor may look at asthma classification. Asthma classification is an important concept that allows doctors to place your asthma into specific categories. The main advantage in using an asthma classification is that it can help guide your doctor to design better treatment for you. Depending on the reason, your asthma type can be determined in any of the following ways:
  • The underlying cause of your asthma symptoms
  • The severity of symptoms
  • The way it's controlled
We will examine each method of asthma classification separately.

Asthma Types Defined By Underlying Cause

One of the ways to classify types of asthma is to look at the underlying cause. All of the following asthma classifications identify a type of asthma related to an underlying cause, exposure, or specific symptom.

  • Allergic asthma- In this type of asthma, you develop asthma symptoms following repeated exposures to allergens such as:

  • Cough variant asthma- While cough may accompany the usual symptoms associated with asthma, cough alone may be a precursor to or the sole symptom in this type of asthma. When cough is the only asthma symptom, this is known as cough variant asthma.
  • Occupational asthma- Do you wheeze, cough, or feel short of breath at work? Occupational asthma is a common respiratory condition that results from exposures in the workplace.

    This type of asthma is characterized by airway irritation, obstruction, and inflammation caused by exposure to certain substances in the workplace. The exposure triggers symptoms from your immune system or through direct irritation of the airways.

  • Exercise induced asthma- This type of asthma occurs in 7% to 20% of the general population and is characterized by bronchoconstriction and asthma symptoms that develop during or following exercise.

  • Medication induced asthma- Despite doing everything your doctor has recommended to control your asthma, you still experience bouts of severe or worsening asthma because of medication you take for another health condition. While it’s not clearly understood how this happens, doctors suspect this type of asthma is akin to an allergic reaction.

  • Nocturnal asthma- In this type of asthma, the amount of air you breathe, measured as your FEV1, decreases by at least 15% from bedtime to waking up in the morning. For some people, the decline in lung function can be significantly more -- and this is all associated with increased symptoms, such as cough, wheezing and shortness of breath that disrupt sleep.

Asthma Types Defined By Severity

Your asthma severity can also be classified in one of the following categories based on several of your asthma symptoms.

Your asthma treatment is, in part, based on this asthma classification.



Asthma Types Based On Method of Control

Based on guidelines from NHLBI, your ongoing asthma treatment and asthma classification can be looked at in terms of asthma control:

  • Well controlled-In this asthma classification, you are generally symptom-free and without impairment. You have symptoms and use your rescue inhaler two or fewer days per week. You rarely wake up at night due to your asthma and your peak flow (PEF) is greater than 80% of your best or predicted PEF.

  • Not well controlled- This asthma classification is characterized by symptoms that occur several times per week and more frequent use of your rescue medication. PEF ranges from 60% to 80% and nighttime symptoms also occur more frequently.

  • Very poorly controlled- In this asthma classification you have daily symptoms and rescue inhaler use. Your PEF is less than 60% of predicted.

Sources:

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Accessed: May 20, 2010. Expert Panel Report 3 (EPR3): Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma

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