By Dr. Mool Chand Gupta, Pulmonology,
Asthma is a respiratory condition, which can adversely affect the ability of a person to draw breath. There is no known cure for the condition and patients have to rely on certain medications to manage the symptoms throughout their life. While these drugs are necessary to improve the quality of life for people with asthma, they are nonetheless full of side effects in the long run. Here is a look at the treatments for asthma and the side effects that such medications can give rise to, when taken over a long period of time.
- Inhaled Corticosteroids: Corticosteroids are specialized medications that are used to reduce the severity and frequency of asthma attacks in patients. However, it cannot reduce the symptoms of the asthma once an attack has started. While using these drugs, you should be aware of the potential side effects that these can cause. Some are local side effects, while others are systemic side effects. The latter is the more dangerous one and can affect the entire body. Decreased bone density, sore throat, easy bruising, glaucoma and hampered growth in children are common systemic side effects of inhaled corticosteroids.
- Long-acting and short-acting beta antagonists: These drugs are used to provide quick relief during an asthma attack. Short-term antagonists have a very limited period of effect on the body, while the long-term medications may have a constant effect for 12 hours or more. Side effects from these medications include increased heart rate, dizziness, anxiety, nervousness and rash. While other side effects may not be difficult to manage, the rapid heartbeats may lead to other cardiac conditions.
- Oral steroids: Oral steroids are not used in a continuous fashion but are administered if the patient at a high risk from a serious asthma attack. Such medications are administered orally in most cases where hospitalization is not required. Side effects from the medications include high blood pressure, weight gain, muscle weakness, diabetes, elevated blood sugar and osteoporosis in some adults. Most of the effects are long-term and quite serious, which is why it is best to avoid oral steroids.
- Leukotriene modifiers: Another useful medication against asthma, these drugs may cause the patient to experience stomach pain, flu-like symptoms, nausea or vomiting and nasal congestion.
Before taking any medication, it is always better to visit a doctor. This physician will be able to understand the side effects and prescribe drugs that have the least chance of causing harmful side effects.