Inhaled corticosteroids are the most effective medicine to treat persistent asthma. Inhaled corticosteroids are asthma controller medicines. Asthma symptoms happen less often when an inhaled corticosteroid is used every day. When used every day, these medicines make the breathing tubes less sensitive by blocking the inflammation that leads to asthma symptoms. Using a controller medicine reduces the need for rescue medicines and lowers the chance of needing to go to the emergency room for an asthma attack.
Because the main problem in asthma is long-term inflammation in the lungs, corticosteroids are often used to treat asthma. Corticosteroids help to reduce and prevent the swelling and excess mucus in the airway caused by inflammation. For most people with asthma, corticosteroids are the single most effective medicine because they break the inflammation cycle and reduce the likelihood of future asthma flare-ups.
Inhaled corticosteroids are not like anabolic steroids.
Although they have a similar name, they are very different from the anabolic steroids that are abused by some athletes. Also, it is important to know that concerns about using oral corticosteroids do not apply because inhaled corticosteroids are not absorbed into the body to any large extent. A small number of individuals experience some local side effects, such as a yeast infection (white spots) of the mouth, tongue or throat and occasional hoarseness. Side effects can be avoided by rinsing the mouth after each treatment and using a spacer with a metered dose inhaler.
Caution: If you have a severe asthma episode that does not respond to your usual medicines, it is important to contact your doctor immediately. The severe asthma episode may make you unable to inhale your usual corticosteroids deeply into your lungs and you may need a "short burst" of oral corticosteroids to reduce the inflammation.
Examples: Pulmicort ® (budesonide), Flovent ® (fluticasone), QVAR ® (beclomethesone) and others
- Prevent asthma symptoms from occurring
- Can reduce and/or prevent:
- Inflammation and scarring in the airways
- Tightening of the muscle bands around the airways (bronchospasm)
- Do not show immediate results, but work slowly over time
- Should be taken daily, even when you are not having symptoms
- Should NOT be used to relieve immediate asthma symptoms
According to the National Asthma Education and Prevention Program at the National Institutes of Health, long-term controller medicines should be considered when infants or young children have had three or more episodes of wheezing in the previous year and who are at an increased risk of developing asthma because of their own or their parents' history of allergic diseases. They also recommend long-term controller medicines for children who need short-acting bronchodilators (rescue medicines) more than twice a week or have had severe asthma symptoms less than six weeks apart. Without a controller medicine, the underlying inflammation will continue to cause more asthma symptoms.