Difference Between Extrinsic Asthma and Intrinsic Asthma

When someone has asthma, their airways (their breathing tubes) become inflamed, irritated, and constricted on a chronic (long-term) basis. This leads to wheezing, chest tightness, wheezing, and other breathing difficulties. Some people with asthma have allergies, whereas others don't.

Asthma has a few different forms, and extrinsic and intrinsic asthma are two of them. Asthma due to allergies and asthma due to other triggers are two names for these conditions.

The symptoms of both forms of asthma are identical. This explains why their treatments are so similar. Nonetheless, their origins and precipitating factors are very different. There is variety in the preventative measures used.

Immunoglobin E (IgE) antibodies are produced locally at the air tubes in response to the appropriate stimuli in both forms of asthma.

What is Extrinsic Asthma?

Extrinsic asthma, also known as allergic asthma, is caused by an immune response to environmental allergens such as pollen, dust mites, animal dander, and mold. In people with extrinsic asthma, the immune system overreacts to the presence of allergens, leading to the release of histamine and other chemicals that cause inflammation and narrowing of the airways.

Symptoms of extrinsic asthma typically include itching and redness in the eyes, runny nose, and cough. This type of asthma is more common in individuals who have a family history of allergies or have a personal history of atopic conditions such as hay fever, eczema, or hives.

What is Intrinsic Asthma?

Intrinsic asthma, on the other hand, is caused by non-allergic triggers such as viral infections, stress, exercise, and exposure to cold air. Unlike extrinsic asthma, intrinsic asthma is not associated with an immune response to allergens and can occur in individuals without a personal or family history of allergies.

In intrinsic asthma, the airways become narrow and inflamed in response to triggers, leading to symptoms such as wheezing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. Intrinsic asthma is more common in adults and is often associated with other underlying medical conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and obesity.

Differences: Extrinsic Asthma and Intrinsic Asthma

The following table highlights the major differences between Extrinsic Asthma and Intrinsic Asthma −


Extrinsic Asthma

Intrinsic Asthma


Extrinsic asthma (allergic asthma) is the asthma caused by a chronic allergic reaction. If your asthma is allergic or extrinsic, you will have increased levels of Immunoglobulin E (IgE) present in the blood test.

In Intrinsic asthma (non-allergic asthma), IgE is only locally involved and this asthma is triggered by several non-allergic factors like cold weather, dry weather, stress and anxiety, viruses or infections, smoke and more.


This type of asthma is very common. Sixty percent people with asthmatic symptoms suffer from allergic asthma or extrinsic asthma as per the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

It is less common in comparison to allergic or extrinsic asthma. Only ten percent to thirty percent of people suffering from asthma develop intrinsic or non-allergic asthma as per The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

It develops more often in women in comparison to males and typically occurs later in life than allergic asthma extrinsic asthma.


  • Dust mites

  • House dust

  • Pet dander

  • Horse hair

  • Feathers

  • Plant Pollen

  • Mold

  • fungal spores

  • Cockroaches

  • Furniture stuffing

  • Rodents

  • Foods like fish (shellfish), berries, tomatoes, cow’s milk, cereals, eggs and chocolate

  • Drugs like sulfites,Penicillin, and aspirin

  • Stress

  • Anxiety

  • Cold air

  • Upper respiratory viruses (respiratory infections like the common cold)

  • Cigarette smoke

  • Environmental and air pollution

  • Changes in weather

  • Dry air

  • Wood or fireplace smoke


  • Lung X-ray and blood work in addition to a thorough physical examination

  • Spirometry

  • Peak flow, or lung function tests

  • All of the above-mentioned tests as well as a skin prick test, to find out what the body perceives as an allergen.

  • Lung X-ray and blood work in addition to a thorough physical examination

  • Spirometry

  • Peak flow, or lung function tests

  • After that, your physician may perform an analysis on what factor(s) result in your non- allergic or intrinsic asthma.


Extrinsic (allergic) asthma treatment involves a tandem treatment approach

It involves treatment of asthma along with the allergies. Extrinsic asthma treatment will involve medications from the doctor meant to address the problem of irritation and reduce the swelling or inflammation. Allergy treatment along with asthma treatment will depend on the allergen causing the symptoms and the severity of the symptoms.

Diet and lifestyle changes are recommended, in addition to traditional allergy medicine.

After your physician identifies the causes and reasons that are responsible for your non-allergic or intrinsic asthma, he will recommend certain treatment and precaution measures to address the specific triggers. These measures include lifestyle changes, changes in diet, nutrition and the environment. The doctor may also prescribe certain drugs and medications, like steroids and antibiotics, that will address the inflammation and infection caused by certain triggers.

If your non- allergic or intrinsic asthma is triggered by tension or anxiety, psychological counselling may also be recommended for treating your non-allergic asthma.


  • Use of vacuum cleaner to minimize dust

  • Fixing pipes that are leaking for prevention of mold build-up

  • Doors and windows should be shut properly to avoid the pollen

  • Pets should be kept out of the bedrooms and living rooms.

People with intrinsic asthma should avoid dry, humid and cold weather.


Extrinsic asthma and intrinsic asthma are two different forms of asthma with distinct causes and underlying mechanisms. Extrinsic asthma is caused by an immune response to environmental allergens, while intrinsic asthma is caused by non-allergic triggers such as viral infections and exercise. Proper diagnosis and treatment can help individuals with asthma manage their symptoms and lead a healthy and active life.

Updated on: 06-Apr-2023


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