While no cure for asthma currently exists, there are medications available that can help stabilize the condition and reduce the frequency of, or even prevent, further asthma attacks. Some patients can outgrow asthma. Those afflicted with persistent or intermittent asthma can use medication to manage the symptoms.
For asthma patients, it is important to avoid known triggers of asthma and be aware of the warning signs of an acute attack. Doctors and medical providers will prescribe medication based on the asthma symptoms exhibited and severity types of asthma. Commonly used asthma medications include bronchodilators, corticosteroids, leukotriene modifiers, and mast cell stabilizers.
- Short acting beta adrenergic blockers.
- e.g. Albuterol
- Short acting bronchodilators are often the first line of treatment for patients who have low severity cases and exhibit asthma symptoms less than twice a week. They are administered by inhaler in order to open up the airways during an asthma attack.
- Long acting beta adrenergic blockers.
- Salmeterol, formoterol, etc
- Used for maintenance and administered daily via inhaler.
- Beta agonists are medications that bind to the beta receptors on the muscles surrounding the bronchial tree and cause them to relax so that the airways can remain open.
- Common brands include Flovent, Beclovent, and Pulmicort.
- Often inhaled, corticosteroids are the first line of treatment for maintenance in patients who exhibit asthma symptoms more than twice a week. They are administered through an inhaler and treat asthma by blocking the inflammation of the bronchial tree, thus preventing wheezing attacks. These are medications that mimic the hormone cortisol, which is produced by the adrenal glands and reduces inflammation.
- Common brands include Singulair, Accolate, and Zyflo.
- Leukotriene modifiers help reduce inflammation due to allergic responses and keep the airways open.
Mast Cell Stabilizers
- Cromolyn sodium
- Reduces inflammation caused by allergies.
- This is an oral medication that can be used in severe cases of asthma flare-ups. Corticosteroids related to prednisone can be given intravenously.
- Oral steroids have several side effects, which is why they are not typically prescribed for long periods of time. Some of these side effects include weight gain, stomach ulcers, abnormal hair growth, sleep disturbance, slow wound healing, dizziness, nausea, etc. If a patient has been taking oral steroids for more than 10 days, he/she will need to wean themselves off the medication gradually by tapering down the dosages.
These are inhalers that contain both a corticosteroid and a long acting beta agonist medication.