Asthma is a chronic inflammatory condition, wherein a person has inflammation in the lungs and the air passage, which leads to constriction of the bronchioles. This causes the air pathway to become narrow, and the amount of air reaching the lungs and the alveoli decreases. This leads to wheezing and breathing problems. The attack can be triggered due to exposure to allergens or irritants such as pollen or dust. Since the condition can be caused due to myriad reasons, the best way to deal with it is by using a multi-pronged approach, which involves a combination of preventive methods and treatment measures.
First Line of Treatment
The treatment plan can be formulated, once the exact cause or trigger factor of this condition is identified. Usually, the first line of treatment will consist of the use of medications that will provide immediate relief. These include:
- Short-acting beta agonists: These drugs when inhaled, lead to bronchodilation, which helps bring about quick relief. These include well-known medicines such as albuterol, levalbuterol, etc. These are fast-acting medicines with long-lasting effects.
- Corticosteroids: Although, the use of corticosteroids is not preferred by the doctors, this class of drugs may eventually be needed to deal with the condition. These can be administered orally or intravenously. Though these help mitigate the symptoms of airway inflammation, the long-term use of these steroids is strictly avoided, as they tend to have many side effects. This is especially to be kept in mind while formulating the treatment plan for children.
- Ipratropium: Although this drug is routinely used to treat emphysema and cases of long standing bronchitis, it may sometimes be used to get immediate relief from an attack. It acts by relaxing the airway.
Second Line of Treatment
The aforementioned medications are given when a person is actually having an attack. However, there are some medicines that are a part of most of the treatment plans which helps prevent the onset of asthma.
- Inhaled corticosteroids: Corticosteroids, including fluticasone, flunisolide, and beclomethasone are commonly used long-term medications to curb the frequency of these attacks. Since these are inhaled, they have a much lower potential of causing side effects, when compared to orally or intravenously administered corticosteroids.
- Long-acting beta agonists: These medications include salmeterol, a bronchodialator, which helps reduce the inflammation. However, these medicines should always be taken in combination with steroids.
- Leukotriene modifiers: These are oral medicines that include zafirlukast and montelukast. These are not fast-acting medicines, and it may take days before the results can be seen.
- Theophylline: It is an oral medication that brings about bronchodilation, thereby making breathing easy and comfortable.
Since asthma can occur due to various factors, and every person has a different trigger factor, the treatment plan is unique for each patient. Asthma is a long-term disease, but it can be managed by avoiding the trigger factor, and following guidelines recommended by the doctor regarding the use of drugs.