Asthma causes the airways of the lungs to swell and narrow, leading to wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and coughing.
Inflammation in the airways is one of the most causes of asthma is. When an asthma attack occurs, the muscles surrounding the airways become tight and the lining of the air passages swells. This reduces the amount of air that can pass by.
The goal of treatment is to avoid the substances that trigger your symptoms and control airway inflammation.
Treating asthma commonly includes two types of medicines: long-term control and quick-relief medicines. Long-term control medicines help reduce airway inflammation and prevent asthma symptoms. Quick-relief, or “rescue,” medicines relieve asthma symptoms that may flare up.
The most common control drugs are:
- Inhaled corticosteroids (such as Asmanex, Alvesco, Qvar AeroBid, Flovent, Pulmicort) prevent symptoms by helping to keep your airways from swelling up.
- Long-acting beta-agonist inhalers also help prevent asthma symptoms. Do not take long-acting beta-agonist inhaler drugs alone. These drugs are almost always used together with an inhaled steroid drug. It may be easier to use an inhaler that contains both drugs.
The others that may be used are:
- Leukotriene inhibitors (such as Singulair and Accolate)
- Omalizumab (Xolair)
- Cromolyn sodium (Intal) or nedocromil sodium (Tilade)
- Aminophylline or theophylline (rarely used anymore)
Quick-relief drugs work fast to control asthma symptoms:
- You take them when you are coughing, wheezing, having trouble breathing, or having an asthma attack. They are also called “rescue” drugs.
- They also can be used just before exercising to help prevent asthma symptoms that are caused by exercise.
- Tell your doctor if you are using quick-relief medicines twice a week or more to control your asthma symptoms. Your asthma may not be under control, and your doctor may need to change your dose of daily control drugs.
Quick-relief drugs include:
- Short-acting bronchodilators (inhalers), such as Proventil, Ventolin, and Xopenex
- Your doctor might prescribe oral steroids (corticosteroids) when you have an asthma attack that is not going away. These are medicines that you take by mouth as pills, capsules, or liquid. Plan ahead. Make sure you do not run out of these medications.
A severe asthma attack requires a check-up by a doctor. You may also need a hospital stay, oxygen, breathing assistance, and medications given through a vein (IV).
When you first begin treatment, you’ll had better get asthma checkups combining with an asthma action plan for the best treatment. The treatments above generally apply to all people who have asthma. However, some aspects of treatment differ for people in certain age groups including children or seniors those who have special needs.