Inhalers for COPD: What types are there?
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease COPD is a term used to describe a few serious lung conditions. These include emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and nonreversible asthma.
The main symptoms of COPD are:. While no cure exists for COPD, several types of medication are available that can often reduce the severity of symptoms. Steroids are among the medications commonly prescribed to people with COPD. They help reduce the inflammation in your lungs caused by flare-ups. Steroids come in oral and inhaled forms. There are also combination drugs that include a steroid and another medication. Each type of steroid works a little differently in controlling or preventing symptom flare-ups.
These fast-acting oral medications are usually prescribed for short-term use, often 5 to 14 days. For adults, doses may be anywhere from 5 to 60 milligrams daily. But your dose will depend on the severity of your symptoms, the strength of the particular medicine, and other factors. Prescription medication and other treatment decisions should always be made on an individual basis.
Studies show oral steroids often help you start to breathe easier very quickly. They are also usually prescribed for short-term use.
This makes you less likely to experience complications associated with long-term use of the medication. Side effects from short-term use of steroids are usually minor if they occur at all. Oral steroids can lower your immune system. Be especially mindful of washing your hands and reducing your exposure to people who may have an infection that can be easily transmitted.
The medications can also contribute to osteoporosis, so your doctor may advise you to increase your vitamin D and calcium intake or start taking drugs to fight bone loss. You can use an inhaler to deliver steroids directly into your lungs.
Unlike oral steroids, inhaled steroids tend to be best for people whose symptoms are stable. You may also use a nebulizer. This is a machine that turns the medicine into a fine aerosol mist. It then pumps the mist through a flexible tube and into a mask you wear across your nose and mouth.
Inhaled steroids tend to be used as maintenance medications to keep symptoms under control for the long term. Doses are measured in micrograms mcg. Typical doses range from 40 mcg per puff from an inhaler to mcg per puff. Some inhaled steroids are more concentrated and powerful to help control more advanced COPD symptoms.
Milder forms of COPD may be controlled by weaker doses. If your symptoms are gradually worsening, inhaled steroids can help keep them from progressing too fast. Research shows they may also cut down the number of acute exacerbations you experience.
If asthma is a part of your COPD, an inhaler may be particularly helpful. The possible side effects of inhaled steroids include a sore throat and cough, as well as infections in your mouth. In these instances, an inhaled drug called a bronchodilator can help relieve coughing and help you catch your breath. To reduce the risk of oral infections, rinse your mouth and gargle with water after you use the inhaler.
Steroids can also be combined with bronchodilators. These are medicines that help relax the muscles surrounding your airways. Various medications used in a combination inhaler can target the large or small airways. Combination inhalers act fast to stop wheezing and coughing, and to help open up airways for easier breathing.
Some combination inhalers are designed to provide those benefits for an extended time after use. The best results occur if you take the combination medication every day, even if your symptoms are under control. Stopping suddenly may lead to worse symptoms.
As with a standard steroid inhaler, use of a combination inhaler should be followed with a mouth rinse to help prevent infections in your mouth. Steroids may also interact with other medications. Mixing prednisone with painkillers such as aspirin Bufferin or ibuprofen Advil , for example, may lessen the effectiveness of the painkillers. More importantly, taking the drugs together may raise your risk of ulcers and stomach bleeding. You need to let your doctor know all the medications and supplements you take so they can inform you about possible interactions.
This includes drugs you may take occasionally for a headache. In addition to steroids and bronchodilators, other medications may be helpful in reducing flare-ups and controlling symptoms. Among them are phosphodiesterase-4 inhibitors. They help reduce inflammation and relax the airways, and are especially helpful for people with bronchitis.
You may also be prescribed antibiotics if you have a bacterial infection that is making your COPD symptoms worse. Steroids and other medications are only parts of an overall approach to treating COPD. You may also need oxygen therapy.
With the help of portable and lightweight oxygen tanks, you can breathe in oxygen to make sure your body gets enough. Some people rely on oxygen therapy when they sleep.
This is an education program that helps you learn about exercise, nutrition, and other lifestyle changes you can make to improve your lung health. One of the most important steps you can take if you smoke is to quit smoking. Smoking is the leading cause of COPD, so giving up the habit is vital to reducing symptoms and slowing the progress of this life-threatening condition. Talk with your doctor about products and therapies that can help you quit.
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