Asthma can strike anyone at any time and under any circumstances. Until recently, the condition was divided into two clearly defined types: “extrinsic” (allergic) and “intrinsic” (non-allergic). Nowadays, however, a more group-type approach is preferred.
These types include:
- Childhood: the main cause of chronic illness among school age children today; more prevalent in boys.
- Adult onset: becoming increasingly commonplace; frequently triggered by allergies; affects women predominantly.
- Occupational: often difficult to diagnose; results from regular exposure to pollutants, chemicals, allergens and other substances present in the workplace.
- Exercise-linked: triggered by exercise in those who already have the condition; can induce new cases in all age groups.
- Pregnancy: symptoms improve approximately 1/3 of the time during pregnancy, 1/3 remain the same and 1/3 worsen; safe medications are available for use during pregnancy.
- Elderly: number of new cases is on the rise; often accompanied by additional medical problems.
- Nocturnal: caused by reduced lung function at nighttime; tends to be more severe during early morning hours.
- Steroid-resistant: inhalation steroid therapy has proven effective for many asthmatics; some sufferers become steroid-resistant.
The term “asthma” comes from the Greek meaning “to breathe hard.” Medical terminology defines the condition as Reversible Obstructive Airways Disease (ROAD).
Unlike other conditions that obstruct the air tubes, such as cystic fibrosis, chronic bronchitis and emphysema, bronchial asthma does not affect sufferers all of the time.
But, be warned! Although attacks can vary considerably in their severity and are sometimes relatively mild, the condition is nevertheless a dangerous one. It can easily spiral out of control at any time. This is particularly true for children.