Asthma , also known as asthma, is a chronic lung disease that affects all ages. It is caused by inflammation and tightening of the muscles around the airways, making it difficult to breathe. Symptoms include coughing, wheezing, wheezing and chest tightness.
Allergic asthma, sometimes called atopic asthma, is asthma triggered by allergens such as pollen, pets and dust mites. About 80% of asthma patients have allergic symptoms.
Some people's asthma only attacks at certain times of the year, such as hay fever season or when it's cold.
Although asthma is usually a long-term condition, it can also cause no symptoms when there are no triggers. It is still important to continue to follow your asthma action plan and take your preventive inhaler as prescribed.
Occupational asthma is asthma caused directly by the work you do. You may have occupational asthma if:
- Your asthma symptoms began in adulthood, and
- Your asthma symptoms may improve on days when you are not working.
Occupational asthma can be caused by a variety of causes. For example, flour dust may trigger symptoms if you work in a bakery, or latex may trigger symptoms if you work in the healthcare industry.
Occupational asthma is different from asthma you already have, which can be worsened by triggers at work.
Non-allergic asthma, also known as non-specific asthma, is asthma that is not associated with allergy triggers such as pollen or dust. It is less common than allergic asthma. Nonallergic asthma usually occurs later in life.
If your asthma doesn't seem to be triggered by things like pollen, dust mites, or pets, you may have non-allergic asthma. Talk to your GP or asthma nurse who can help you find the best way to treat your asthma.
About 90% of people with asthma have airways that tighten due to exercise. However, this condition can also occur in people who do not have asthma.
If you haven't been diagnosed with asthma but are experiencing symptoms such as chest tightness, difficulty breathing, coughing, or fatigue during or after exercise, see your doctor. They can:
- Test your lung function with a spirometry test. This is to make sure you don't have asthma.
- Do some exercise challenge testing. This is usually done on a treadmill or other equipment and is a way to see how your airways respond to exercise.
- You are provided with treatment to help relieve the symptoms you are experiencing so that you can continue to exercise safely. This may be a relief medication taken before exercise.
If you need to use your relief inhaler three or more times a week to stop symptoms, your GP may want to review your treatment.
Your GP may recommend using a daily preventive inhaler or adding treatments such as LTRA (leukotriene receptor antagonists) and long-acting bronchodilators.
About 17% of people with asthma suffer from so-called difficult asthma, or uncontrollable asthma.
You may have difficult asthma if:
- You have symptoms three or more times a week
- You use your relief inhaler three or more times per week
- You wake up one or more times a week during the night due to asthma
If you have difficult asthma, your GP will help you find the right combination of asthma medicines for you. You may need to see an asthma specialist to find out why your asthma is difficult to control and to seek different treatments.
Severe asthma is usually diagnosed and treated in an asthma specialist clinic.
Severe asthma is a type of difficult asthma that does not respond to conventional treatments. Even if your asthma is described as "difficult" and you have multiple asthma attacks, this does not always mean you have severe asthma.
Your GP may decide to refer you for further assessment and testing if:
- You find that your asthma symptoms are difficult to control, even with prescribed treatments
- You have two or more asthma attacks in a year that require oral steroids
- You have had one or more asthma attacks in a year that required hospitalization
- You use relievers three or more times a week
- you take steroids long-term to treat asthma
- Your asthma is affecting your daily life or activity level
- You wake up at night with asthma.
If you have severe asthma, you may need different asthma medications, such as long-term steroid tablets to reduce inflammation in your airways.
Some people with severe asthma are treated with biologic medications. These can help better control asthma symptoms and reduce asthma attacks.
Living with severe asthma can make life difficult.
The old term "brittle asthma" is still sometimes used to describe difficult and severe asthma.
Asthma in children
Some children diagnosed with asthma find that their asthma symptoms improve or disappear completely as they age. This is called childhood asthma.
However, sometimes it may reoccur later in life.
Asthma usually begins in childhood, but some people are first diagnosed with asthma in adulthood. This is called adult-onset asthma or delayed-onset asthma.
Some possible causes of asthma attacks in adults are:
- Occupational asthma: Approximately 1 in 10 adult asthma cases are occupational asthma
- Smoking and second-hand smoke
- Female hormones: This may be one reason women are more likely to develop asthma as adults than men
- Stressful life events.