Medicines for Asthma
What are the medicines used to treat asthma?
There are basically three kinds of medicines:
Relievers (Bronchodilators) are medicines that relax smooth muscles that have tightened around the airways. They relieve asthma symptoms. Short acting b2-agonists, short acting aminophylline, and ipratropium are bronchodilators or relievers.
Preventers (Anti-inflammatory medicines) are medicines that reduce or reverse the swelling in the airways which is the characteristics of an asthmatic. These medicines also prevent the initiation of inflammation after exposure to trigger factors. Thereby they prevent asthma episodes. Sodium Cromoglycate, Nedocromil sodium, inhaled Corticosteroids, and oral Corticosteroids are anti-inflammatory medicines or preventers. They are used in 2nd to 5th steps of “Step care Management”. Aminophylline and Theophylline also have some weak anti-inflammatory effects. Antileukotrienes are newer preventer medicines.
Protectors (Symptom controllers) are long acting bronchodilator medicines which prevent recurrence of attacks particularly nocturnal symptoms. Salmeterol, long acting Theophylline, sustained release Salbutamol are protector medicines.
Are asthma medicines safe?
Asthma medicines are safe contrary to common apprehensions. Inhaled route is the safest way and should be used as standard first-line therapy. These drugs are not addictive. Long-term regular use of anti-asthmatic drugs usually does not lessen their efficacy and increased dose is not necessarily required. These drugs are safe during pregnancy and lactation.
What should be done if side effects occur?
- Although side effects are very rare, if any problem occurs, it should be reported by the patient immediately.
- Medicines should not be stopped completely without physician's consultation. Abrupt stoppage may worsen asthma.
- Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America: http://www.aafa.org/
- American Asthma Foundation: http://www.americanasthmafoundation.org/
- Asthma, UK: http://www.asthma.org.uk/all_about_asthma/index.html
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