What is Brittle Asthma?

Don’t be surprised if the term “brittle asthma” doesn’t seem to ring a bell. This type of respiratory condition is rare so there isn’t much hype surrounding this condition. As a whole, asthma is a fairly common condition, at least in young children. Some children grow out of the condition while others will retain it for the rest of their lives. Whether you are asthmatic or simply want to learn more about this respiratory condition, the following sections describe the three primary types of asthma as well as the lesser-known brittle asthma condition.

Allergic Asthma

This is the most common type of asthma. In fact, approximately one half of asthmatic adults suffer from this variation of the condition. This kind of respiratory condition is triggered by allergens. An allergen is something that a person’s immune system views as a threat, whether or not it is actually harmful to the body. For sufferers, the allergen could be one thing or it could be a number of different things—it varies from individual to individual. Common allergens known to trigger attacks include dust, smoke, chemicals, powders, and even strong aerosols like perfume or air freshener. When the body detects a particular allergen, the immune system jumps into action by producing histamine. This chemical causes inflammation that most often leads to swelling. When this occurs in the lungs, it becomes difficult for the bronchioles, or airways, to take in air. The symptoms that one will experience with chronic asthma include difficulty breathing (or wheezing), tightness of the chest, coughing, and shortness of breath.

Allergic asthmatics are treated using an inhaler with one of a few different types of medications. For severe allergies, one will likely be given a steroid-based medicine that will immediately help to reduce swelling in the lungs and the areas surrounding the bronchioles. Avoidance of the allergen is the best way to prevent an attack; however, it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact element to which one is allergic, as in most cases, the individual will be allergic to more than one allergen.

Exercise-Induced Asthma

Exercised-induced asthma is the second most common type. With this lung condition, an attack is triggered by long periods of exercise or by significant physical exertion. Although this type can certainly occur as a stand-alone diagnosis, more individuals seem to have the attacks in conjunction with an existing chronic asthma condition. An exercise-induced attack most likely occurs while running, biking, playing vigorous sports, or engaging in other activities that can cause a significant rise in one’s heartbeat.

Asthma induced by exercise results from changes in the body’s temperature and humidity levels. During a rigorous exercise, an individual’s body temperature will become elevated and higher levels of moisture will be drawn in as one breathes. In reaction to these abrupt changes, the bronchioles in the lungs begin to draw inward, which restricts the amount of air that can flow through. Common symptoms associated with this type of condition include coughing, a feeling of tightness in the chest, difficulty breathing, and unusual tiredness while exercising. These symptoms can start up as soon as five minutes into the exercise or as late as five to ten minutes after the exercise has been completed. Asthmatics can prevent exercise-induced breathing distress by using an inhaler prior to starting the exercise. Allowing for a gradual warm-up before exercising can help to prevent the body from being shocked with an abrupt temperature change.

Cough-Induced Asthma

This type can be a really difficult condition for doctors to diagnose. The reason for such is that there are a number of other more common issues that can produce the same symptoms. This pulmonary condition causes coughing that is dry and non-productive; that is, no matter how much one coughs, phlegm or mucus is never “brought up.” It is quite different from the rest because it doesn’t have any of the other typical symptoms such as tightness of the chest, wheezing, or the feeling that one cannot take in enough oxygen. For all intents and purposes, cough-induced asthma is simply a long-term chronic cough. Other conditions that must be ruled out in order for this diagnosis to be made include chronic bronchitis, hay fever, and sinus issues.

Cough-induced asthma can be very disruptive, especially when a coughing fit occurs at inappropriate times such as at work or during the night. Individuals who are diagnosed with this asthmatic condition are usually treated in the same manner as with other kinds of asthma. This typically means being given an inhaler to use at the onset of coughing.

Brittle Asthma

This disorder pertains to a very rare severe respiratory condition that is broken down into two types: “type 1″ and “type 2.” Type 1 sufferers struggle with attacks on a daily basis. Their lives typically revolve around the condition that can bring on severe coughing fits, wheezing, an inability to breathe, and chest constriction. Individuals who suffer from type 1 are more likely to display symptoms that are resistant or difficult to treat with medication. Some attacks can occur without warning altogether and may be life threatening. Type 2 asthmatics typically do not suffer from attacks as often as type 1 sufferers; however, type 2 sufferers are still prone to very strong, severe attacks. In both cases, daily doses of medication are required to keep the condition manageable.