Asthma is a long-term inflammatory disease that involves the blockage of airways in the lungs. It is caused by a combination of complex genetic interactions or environmental factors. There are many triggers, which can initiate an asthma attack. Asthma is characterized by episodes of wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and coughing. Usually, symptoms get worse at night and early in the morning or in response to exercise or cold air. As it is a chronic and long-term disease, there is no cure for it. But there are many treatment options to control asthma. These options work differently for different people and need to be customized according to their needs.
The goals of the treatment are:
- Controlling airway swelling
- Avoiding substances that triggers symptoms
- Preventing or reducing the intensity of asthma symptoms
The treatment options depend on some factors like your age, symptoms, asthma triggers, and what works to keep your asthma under control. It is treated with two types of medications: long-term control and quick-relief medicines.
Long-term asthma control medicines
These medications help to reduce airway inflammation and prevent symptoms. They are taken daily to control asthma. Types of medications include:
- Inhaled corticosteroids: The anti-inflammatory drugs include fluticasone, budesonide, flunisolide, beclomethasone, mometasone, and fluticasone furoate. These medications show a low risk of side effects and are safe for long-term use.
- Leukotriene modifiers: Montelukast, zafirlukast, and zileuton are used to control immune reaction against an allergen. These drugs help to relieve the symptoms up to 24 hours.
- Long-acting beta agonists: Salmeterol and formoterol are used to treat asthma. These drugs, when used, open the blocked airways. But these drugs also increase the risk of a severe asthma attack. So, they are used only in combination with inhaled corticosteroids.
- Combination inhalers: Fluticasone-salmeterol, budesonide-formoterol, and formoterol-mometasone contain long-acting beta agonist along with a corticosteroid.
- Theophylline: It is a daily pill that helps to keep the airways open by relaxing the muscles around the airways.
Quick-relief (rescue) medications
These drugs are used for rapid, short-term relief during an asthma attack. They are used when symptoms are noticed, but should not be used for more than two days. Types of quick-relief medication include:
- Short-acting beta agonists: These drugs are inhaled during an asthma attack. This gives quick-relief within minutes. Albuterol and levalbuterol are few examples of this classification of drugs. These drugs are used as a portable, hand-held inhaler or a nebulizer.
- Ipratropium (Atrovent): It acts quickly and immediately relaxes your airways, making it easier to breathe. It is commonly used for emphysema and chronic bronchitis but sometimes used to treat asthma attacks.
- Oral and intravenous corticosteroids: Prednisone and methylprednisolone are the examples of this classification. They relieve the airway inflammation caused by severe asthma but cause serious side effects when used for long term.
In addition to the medications, lifestyle changes go a long way in keeping you healthy. You should avoid known triggers such as pollen, mould, and dust. Maintaining a dust-free home and workplace helps reduce the frequency of asthma attacks. If the source of allergen is a pet, keeping the pet away from you would be wise. In some people, stress might trigger asthma. Therefore, adopting measures to relieve stress, such as yoga and meditation may help. You should avoid foods that might trigger asthma.
Treatments are designed to minimize the discomfort, inconvenience, and the extent to which you have to limit activities. Many treatments options are available for treating asthma. The symptoms may differ from person to person, so depending on your severity and symptoms your doctor may suggest you various treatments.