Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic Asthma: The Main Differences

You have probably heard of asthma, but did you know that there are two different types? The two types of asthma are called extrinsic and intrinsic and they can often have different causes and symptoms.

Asthma causes the air passages to become inflamed and narrowed, making it difficult to get enough oxygen into the lungs. This can cause several uncomfortable and potentially serious symptoms such as wheezing, shortness of breath, blue lips or fingers, or an increased heart rate. What causes the symptoms of asthma depends on the type of asthma you have.

Extrinsic Asthma
Also known as allergic asthma, extrinsic asthma is caused by an allergic reaction. Those with allergic asthma will experience the above symptoms as well as:

  • Itchy eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Congestion
  • A rash

Intrinsic Asthma
Intrinsic asthma, or non-allergic asthma, is a form of asthma that is not caused by an allergic reaction.

Causes of Allergic vs. Non-Allergic Asthma
Allergic Asthma is caused by your immune system reacting to substances it views as harmful. These substances can include:

  • Pet hair or dander
  • Mould spores
  • Dust mites
  • Pollen from plants like grass or weeds

Seasonal allergies are a common cause of allergic asthma. People with seasonal allergies may find that their symptoms are worse during certain times of the year, such as spring when more pollen is produced by plants.

The triggers for non-allergic asthma are different for everyone and sometimes it may not even be clear what your triggers are. However, there are a few triggers that seem to be common among non-allergic asthma sufferers.

  • Exercise 
  • Air pollution
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Respiratory infections
  • Some food additives like sulphates
  • Strong perfumes or cleaning agents

What if I Have Both Types Diagnosed?
Whilst allergic asthma is the most common form, it is possible for someone to be diagnosed with both types. It is important to understand your triggers so that you can try to mitigate the chances of having any symptoms of asthma. You can also take asthma medication to help prevent and treat your symptoms.

Asthma Medication

  • Salbutamol: a short acting reliever inhaler for sudden symptoms of asthma
  • Ventolin: another reliever inhaler used for asthma as well as COPD and other breathing problems
  • Clenil Inhaler: a preventative inhaler used regularly to prevent asthma attacks

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