Are you concerned about taking corticosteroids to control your asthma? We took a look at some common questions when it comes to preventative asthma meds.
For some 30 years, inhaled corticosteroids, ICSs, have been the frontline treatment for anyone with persistent asthma. Effective at controlling symptoms, reducing the risk of flare-ups and minimising the impact of asthma on our everyday lives, inhalers containing preventative corticosteroids can make a world of difference to our lungs and lives.
Despite this, studies show that most people with asthma aren’t using their preventer medication as they should. What are some preconceptions that might be holding them back? We answered some of the most common questions about inhaled corticosteroids.
Unlike oral steroids, a preventer inhaler sends corticosteroids – anti-inflammatory medication – straight to your lungs, minimising absorption into the rest of the body. If used properly and prescribed in standard doses, treatment is safe and unwanted side effects are generally few. It’s important to always read carefully the information leaflet that comes with your inhaler and follow your doctor’s instructions. If you experience any side effects, please consult your doctor.
There is a relationship between high doses of ICS – for severe asthma or asthma flare-ups – and unwanted side effects like oral thrush or hoarseness. That’s why it’s recommended to always rinse your mouth after using your inhaler.
Inhaled corticosteroids are some of the most closely studied drugs in clinical use. Most people will likely find that they bring long-term benefits to lung function that outweigh potential downsides.
If you have asthma, you should not stop taking long-term control medication just because you feel well.
Asthma is a chronic disease and it doesn’t simply disappear. You may have long stretches when you’re symptom free. In that case, your doctor may prescribe a low dose ICS to ensure it stays that way. A decision to quit your medication should be made only together with your healthcare provider.
If you have persistent asthma, the best way to stay on top of symptoms is to use your preventive inhaler consistently, keeping your reliever inhaler on hand in the event of a flare-up.
If you’re using your reliever inhaler more than several times a week, you’re probably putting up with symptoms unnecessarily. Using corticosteroids even when you feel fine means you’re keeping inflammation at bay.
In 2015, a comprehensive scientific review found 24 percent of exacerbations and 60 percent of asthma-related hospitalisations were due to people not sticking to their treatment plan.
It is possible for corticosteroids to increase your appetite, especially in high doses. However, inhaled steroids are far less likely than their oral counterparts to lead to weight gain.
Overall, the relationship between ICS, asthma and body weight just isn’t that simple, because other factors could be coming into play. Is fear of flare-ups stopping you from exercising? Could ICS meds enable you to be more active and hence maintain a healthy weight?
As with any medically manageable condition, finding the ideal control regime for asthma is individual. If you have concerns, your best option is always to talk to your doctor.
By Sarah Hudson
Photo by iStock
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