Asthma (cont.)

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The many faces of asthma

The many potential triggers of asthma largely explain the different ways in which asthma can present. In most cases, the disease starts in early childhood from 2- 6 years of age. In this age group, the cause of asthma is often linked to exposure to allergens, such as dust mites, tobacco smoke, and viral respiratory infections. In very young children, less than 2 years of age, asthma can be difficult to diagnose with certainty. Wheezing at this age often follows a viral infection and might disappear later, without ever leading to asthma. Asthma, however, can develop again in adulthood. Adult-onset asthma occurs more often in women, mostly middle-aged, and frequently follows a respiratory tract infection. The triggers in this group are usually nonallergic in nature.

Types: allergic (extrinsic) and nonallergic (intrinsic) asthma

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Your doctor may refer to asthma as being "extrinsic" or "intrinsic." A better understanding of the nature of asthma can help explain the differences between them. Extrinsic, or allergic asthma, is more common and typically develops in childhood. Approximately 70% to 80% of children with asthma also have documented allergies. Typically, there is a family history of allergies. Additionally, other allergic conditions, such as nasal allergies or eczema, are often also present. Allergic asthma often goes into remission in early adulthood. However, in many cases, the asthma reappears later.

Intrinsic asthma represents a small amount of all cases. It usually develops after the age of 30 and is not typically associated with allergies. Women are more frequently involved and many cases seem to follow a respiratory tract infection. The condition can be difficult to treat and symptoms are often chronic and year-round.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/6/2013

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