Wheezing. Coughing. Shortness of breath. Most people know how to spot the signs of asthma, a common and chronic (long-term) lung condition in which the airways become inflamed and narrowed, making it harder to breathe.

But you may not know that there are actually two subtypes of asthma: extrinsic and intrinsic asthma. And while they share the same symptoms, the two have very different causes and specific prevention plans to help you breathe easier and take control of your lungs (and your life.)

What is Extrinsic Asthma?

Also known as allergic or atopic asthma, extrinsic asthma is the most common form of the condition. It’s triggered by external allergens like pollen, dust mites, pet dander, or mold. Like all allergic reactions, exposure to these triggers causes the immune system to overreact and flood the body with chemicals that cause asthma symptoms.

Symptoms: The classic symptoms include wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and coughing. People with extrinsic asthma may also have allergy symptoms such as red and itchy eyes, sneezing, nasal congestion, and runny nose.

Treatment: Avoiding known triggers is the first line of defense against extrinsic asthma attacks. Asthma medications like inhaled corticosteroids or bronchodilators can treat flare-ups quickly and maintain open airways. Treating your underlying allergies with medications or immunotherapy, like our sublingual allergy drops, can help reduce the frequency of attacks and overall asthma symptoms.

What is Intrinsic Asthma?

In contrast, intrinsic asthma (or non-allergic asthma) is not triggered by allergies. Instead, it’s often related to factors like respiratory infections, stress, exercise, cold weather, or exposure to irritants like cigarette smoke or air pollution. Intrinsic asthma is much less common, affecting less than 30% of the diagnosed population, and is more common in adults than in children.

Symptoms: Similar to extrinsic asthma, symptoms include coughing, wheezing, chest tightness or pain, and trouble breathing. However, these are not accompanied by allergy symptoms.

Treatment: Treatment for intrinsic asthma is more challenging due to the diversity of triggers, and plans usually focus on managing symptoms and preventing flare-ups. This includes using bronchodilators and anti-inflammatory medications, as well as lifestyle changes like avoiding secondhand smoke, reducing stress, and minimizing the risk of respiratory infections. Our respiratory supply program offers a range of products that can help in the effective management of intrinsic asthma.

Why the Distinction Matters

Understanding whether your asthma is intrinsic or extrinsic is vital for effective prevention and treatment. While some medications and strategies overlap, certain methods are more beneficial for one type over the other.

Whether your asthma is extrinsic or intrinsic, our team of pharmacy professionals can deliver quality medical supplies and medications right to your door for easy management of your condition. From sublingual allergy drops to respiratory medications and top-brand nebulizers, we’re here to help you breathe easier. Visit us online or contact our team to learn more and take back control of your lung health.