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Treatments for Asthma

Although much of asthma treatment is prescribed and monitored by health professionals, a large portion of it rests in the hands of the patients.  Since asthma is a common medical condition, it is important to recognize the symptoms of an impending asthma attack in order to stop an attack before it takes place.  It is up to the patients to use their inhalers and take their medications.  Asthma patients have the most critical role in treating their own disease.

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There are three primary steps in treating asthma:

1. Providing quick relief for current urgent symptoms and asthma attacks

2. Taking long-term control of the disease with medication and other approaches

3. Preventing future asthma attacks

The right medications for you depend on a number of things, including your age, your symptoms, your asthma triggers and what seems to work best to keep your asthma under control. Preventive, long-term control medications reduce the inflammation in your airways that leads to symptoms. Quick-relief inhalers (bronchodilators) quickly open swollen airways that are limiting breathing. In some cases, allergy medications are necessary.

Long-Term Asthma Medications

  • Usually taken orally
  • Cornerstone of asthma treatment
  • Keep asthma under control on an ongoing daily basis
  • Reduce chances of future asthma attacks; Preventive
  • Long-term control of reducing the inflammation in the airways of the lungs that cause symptoms

The following are types of long-term control medications:

Inhaled corticosteroids

  • The following are types of inhaled corticosteroids: fluticasone, budesonide, mometasone, ciclesonide, flunisolide, beclomethasone
  • Low risk of side effects
  • Anti-inflammatory medication
  • Reduce swelling in the airways
  • Reduce mucous production in the airways
  • Make airways less likely to react to asthma triggers
  • May take a few days or weeks to see results of treatment

Leukotriene modifiers

  • The following are types of leukotriene modifiers: montelukast, zafirlukast and zileuton
  • Bronchodilators
  • Relax smooth muscle around the airways to open the airways
  • Help clear away mucous from the lungs
  • Relieve asthma symptoms for a maximum of 24 hours
  • Side effects are rare and may include: agitation, depression, aggression, suicidal thoughts and hallucinations

Long-acting beta agonists

  • The following are types of long-acting beta agonists: salmeterol and formoterol
  • Open the airways
  • Reduce inflammation of the airways
  • There is suggestive evidence that they may in fact increase the risk of a severe asthma attack, so long-term beta agonists should be taken along with an inhaled corticosteroid
  • Not for use for an acute asthma attack

Combination inhalers

  • The following are types of combination inhalers: fluticasone-salmeterol, budesonide-formoterol and mometasone-formoterol
  • Combination of a long-acting beta agonist and a corticosteroid

 Theophylline

  • The following are types of theophylline: Theo-24 and Elixophyllin
  • Taken in pill form
  • Bronchodilator
  • Relax smooth muscle around the airways to open the airways
  • Help clear away mucous from the lungs

Quick-relief (rescue) medications

  • Used when the need arises for quick-relief rescue treatment during an asthma attack
  • The following are types of quick-relief medications:

 Short-acting beta agonists

  • Taken via inhaler or nebulizer
  • Quick-relief bronchodilators
  • Relax smooth muscle around the airways to open the airways
  • Help clear away mucous from the lungs
  • The following are types of short-acting beta agonists: albuterol, levalbuterol and pirbuterol

Ipratropium

  • The following is the type of ipratropium: Atrovent
  • Quick-relief bronchodilator
  • Relax smooth muscle around the airways to open the airways
  • Help clear away mucous from the lungs
  • Usually used to treat emphysema and chronic bronchitis

Oral and intravenous corticosteroids

  • The following are types of corticosteroids: prednisone and methylprednisolone
  • Anti-inflammatory medication
  • Reduce swelling in the airways
  • Reduce mucous production in the airways
  • Make airways less likely to react to asthma triggers
  • Can cause serious side effects when used long term, so only use corticosteroids for short-term rescue to treat severe asthma symptoms

Talk with your doctor about which asthma treatments are best for you.  Notify your doctor when you develop symptoms of an asthma attack and remember to take your long-term medications daily to prevent attacks and worsening of your asthma.  Asthma medications are relatively harmless and work successfully in treating asthma symptoms and preventing future asthma attacks.  Take your medications and follow your doctor’s orders so that you can live a more active life with easier breathing and more energy.