Common Treatment Options For Asthma

Asthma is a common health problem of respiratory system. Commonly some allergy (approximately 60% to 90% people with asthma have allergic origin) is involved in causation of asthma. If asthma has allergic origin the allergen should be tried to identify and avoided if possible.ID-100112438

In asthma, the airways of lungs become smaller/contracted due to contraction of smooth muscles lining these airways and breathing becomes difficult (breathlessness) and there is wheezing sound and in severe cases the wheezing sound can be heard by somebody standing nearby. In case of minor cases, doctor can listen wheezing sound with stethoscope. There are various treatment options available for management of asthma and they are highly effective.

Inhaled corticosteroids:

Inhaled corticosteroids (such as beclomethasone, fluticasone, budesonide etc.) are the main medications for treatment of asthma, whatever may be the cause of asthma. They are highly effective and produce minimal side effects, because they are delivered at the target tissues (the airways which are contracted) and usually not absorbed into systemic circulation, hence very little side effects, if any. In asthma, there is inflammation of airways and corticosteroids are the best medicines for control of inflammation from any cause. Hence, they are highly effective. However, for the optimal effect of corticosteroids to start, it may take a few days. Hence not suitable for immediate effects in case of emergency situations. They are available as metered dose inhalers (MDI), which deliver a fixed amount of medication with every puff.

Beta receptor agonists:

They can be short acting or long acting beta agonists (also known as bronchodilators, such as short acting salbutamol and long acting salmeterol). Beta receptors are present in the smooth muscles of airways of lungs and they act on these beta receptors and relax the muscles (enlarges the airways, which are contracted due to asthma) and make breathing easier. Most asthmatics carry beta agonist inhalers (MDI) along with them for use in emergency. They act very fast, especially the short acting beta agonists. Long acting beta agonists work for more than 12 hours and need less frequent inhalations.

Leukotriene antagonists:

These medications (such as montelukast, zafirlukast etc.) block leukotriene, which are inflammatory mediators and cause inflammation in case of asthma. They specifically block leukotriene and thereby inhibit inflammation. They are used for some specific patients.

Omalizumab:

This particular drug binds to immunoglobulin E, which is a type of antibody that is produced in the body in response to allergen. This is for allergic type of asthma and not effective in case of non-allergic type of asthma.

Theophylline:

It is a bronchodilator and help in symptomatic relief of asthma, especially coughing at night. This drug has some potentially serious side effects ranging from diarrhea to neurological problems. Hence, not commonly used, especially in presence of highly effective medications such as inhaled corticosteroids and beta agonists.

Allergy shots:

Allergy shots may be helpful in asthma, if your asthma is due to allergy. The first step is to identify the allergen, which is not an easy task. Once the allergen is identified, you get the shot (containing minute quantity of the allergen) usually once every week, till your body is desensitized from the allergen. The complete desensitization may take several years (sometimes up to five years). This is a type of immunotherapy.

Image courtesy of [marin] at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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