Selasa, 13 Januari 2009

Asthma in Teens and Adults : Medications


Medication does not cure asthma. But it is an important part of managing the condition. Medications for asthma treatment are used to:

  • Prevent and control the underlying airway inflammationClick here to see an illustration., to minimize asthma symptoms.
  • Decrease the severity, frequency, and duration of asthma attacks.
  • Treat the attacks as they occur.

Asthma medications are divided into two groups: those for prevention and long-term control of inflammationClick here to see an illustration. and those that provide quick relief for asthma attacks. Most people with persistent asthma need to use long-term medications daily. Quick-relief medications 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 medications and doses of medications. Special consideration may be necessary if you:

  • Are pregnant. If a woman had asthma before becoming pregnant, her symptoms may become better or worse during pregnancy. Pregnant women whose asthma is not well controlled may be at risk for a number of complications.
  • Are an older adult. Older adults tend to have worse asthma symptoms and a higher risk of death from asthma than younger people. They may also have one or more other health conditions or take other medications that can make asthma symptoms worse.
  • Have exercise-induced asthma. Exercise often causes asthma symptoms. Steps you can take to reduce the risk of this include using medication immediately before you exercise.
  • Need surgery. People with moderate to severe asthma are at higher risk than people who do not have asthma of developing problems during and after surgery.

Medication delivery

Most medications for asthma are inhaled. Inhaled medications are used because a specific dose of the medication 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.

Most health professionals recommend that everyone who uses a metered-dose inhaler (MDI) also use a spacerClick here to see an illustration., which is attached to the MDI. A spacer may deliver the medication 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 result in less use of oral corticosteroids.

It is important to keep track of the inhaler doses and discard the inhaler when you have used the number of doses indicated on the package labeling. This not only prevents you from having an empty inhaler when you need medication, but it also prevents you from inhaling only propellant after the medication has run out. For more information, see:

Click here to view an Actionset.Asthma: Using a metered-dose inhaler.
Click here to view an Actionset.Asthma: Using a dry powder inhaler.

Medication Choices

The most important asthma medications are:

  • Inhaled corticosteroids. These are the preferred medications for long-term treatment of asthma. They reduce inflammation of your airways and are taken every day to keep asthma under control and to prevent sudden and severe symptoms (asthma attacks). Inhaled corticosteroids include beclomethasone dipropionate, triamcinolone acetonide, fluticasone propionate, budesonide, and flunisolide.
  • Oral or injected corticosteroids (systemic corticosteroids) to get your asthma under control before you start taking daily medication. You may also need these medications to treat asthma attacks. Oral corticosteroids are used much more than injected corticosteroids. Oral corticosteroids include prednisone and dexamethasone.
  • Short-acting beta2-agonists for asthma attacks. They relax the airways, allowing you to breathe easier. These medications include albuterol and pirbuterol.

Other long-term medications for daily treatment include:

Other medications may be given in some cases.

  • Anticholinergics (such as ipratropium) and magnesium sulfate are usually used for severe asthma attacks.
  • Other medicine such as omalizumab may be used if asthma does not improve with treatment. An asthma specialist generally prescribes this medicine.

See a chart of asthma medications for teens and adults.

What to Think About

Medications are usually added one at a time to keep the number of medications low. The dosage of each medication should correspond to the severity of your asthma. Sometimes your health professional will start you at a higher dose within your asthma classification so that the inflammation is immediately controlled. After a prolonged period of symptom improvement, the dose of the last medication added is reduced to the lowest possible dose for maintenance. 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 medication and increasing the medication if the dose is not enough.19

Because quick-relief medication quickly reduces symptoms, people sometimes overuse these medications instead of using the slower-acting long-term medications. But overuse of quick-relief medications may have harmful effects, such as decreasing the future effectiveness of these medications.20 Overuse of quick-relief medication is also an indication that asthma symptoms are not being controlled. Be sure to talk with your health professional immediately.

You may have to take many different medications daily to manage your asthma. It can be difficult to remember when to take your medication and which medication to take. To help yourself remember, understand the reasons people don't take their asthma medications, and then find ways to overcome those obstacles, such as taping a note to your refrigerator to remind yourself.

Using the fewest medications possible is important for older people, because they may be taking medications for other conditions. Tell your health professional about all the medications you are taking, so he or she can select asthma medications 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 medication to decrease inflammation before the symptoms start.

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