Asthma in Teens and Adults (cont.)
IN THIS ARTICLE
Medicine does not cure asthma. But it is an important part of managing the condition. Medicines for asthma treatment are used to:
Asthma medicines are divided into two groups: those for prevention and long-term control of inflammation and those that provide quick relief for asthma attacks. Most people with persistent asthma need to use long-term medicines daily. Quick-relief medicines are used as needed and provide rapid relief of symptoms during asthma attacks.
Because asthma develops from a complex interaction of genetics, environmental factors, and the reaction of the immune system, different people may use different medicines and doses of medicines. Special consideration may be needed if you:
Most medicines for asthma are inhaled. Inhaled medicines are used because a specific dose of the medicine can be given directly to the bronchial tubes. Different types of delivery systems may be used to do this, and one type may be more suitable for certain people or age groups than another. Delivery systems include metered-dose and dry powder inhalers and nebulizers. A metered-dose inhaler is used most often.
Sometimes doctors recommend the use of a spacer with a metered-dose inhaler (MDI). The spacer is attached to the MDI. A spacer may deliver the medicine to your lungs better than an inhaler alone. And for many people it is easier to use than an MDI alone. Using a spacer with inhaled corticosteroids can help reduce their side effects and the need for oral corticosteroids.
It is important to keep track of the inhaler doses and discard the inhaler when you have used the number of doses specified on the package labeling. This not only prevents you from having an empty inhaler when you need medicine, but it also prevents you from inhaling only propellant after the medicine has run out. Some metered-dose inhalers and dry powder inhalers have counters that let you know how much medicine is left. For more information, see:
The most important asthma medicines are:
Other long-term medicines for daily treatment include:
Other medicines may be given in some cases.
Medicine treatment for asthma depends on a person's age, his or her type of asthma, and how well the treatment is controlling asthma symptoms.
Your doctor will work with you to help find the number and dose of medicines that work best.
What to think about
At the start of asthma treatment, the number and dosage of medicines are chosen to get the asthma under control. Your doctor may start you at a higher dose within your asthma classification so that the inflammation is immediately controlled. After the asthma has been controlled for several months, the dose of the last medicine added is reduced to the lowest possible dose that prevents symptoms. This is known as step-down care. Step-down care is believed to be a better way to control inflammation in the bronchial tubes than starting at lower doses of medicine and increasing the dose if it is not enough.22
Because quick-relief medicine quickly reduces symptoms, people sometimes overuse these medicines instead of using the slower-acting long-term medicines. But overuse of quick-relief medicines may have harmful effects, such as reducing the future effectiveness of these medicines.23 Overuse of quick-relief medicine is also an sign that asthma symptoms are not being controlled. Be sure to talk with your doctor immediately.
You may have to take more than one medicine daily to manage your asthma. It can be hard to remember when to take your medicine and which medicine to take. To help yourself remember, understand the reasons people don't take their asthma medicines, and then find ways to overcome those obstacles, such as taping a note to your refrigerator to remind yourself.
Using the fewest medicines possible is important for older people, because they may be taking medicines for other conditions. Tell your doctor about all the medicines you are taking, so he or she can select asthma medicines that won't interfere with other medicines.
Some people only have symptoms during certain times of the year (seasonal asthma). If you know when you will most likely have symptoms, start using a medicine to decrease inflammation before the symptoms start.
eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise
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