Asthma treatment and Prednisone
What is asthma?
Currently, about 7% of the US population suffers from asthma. It’s an inflammation of the bronchi or airways taking air into the lungs and returning the carbon dioxide. The most common symptoms are difficulty in breathing because of a sense of tightness in the chest. You will hear wheezing and grow increasingly short of breath. Some coughing may occur. This is a chronic problem, but the frequency of attacks can vary quite dramatically. Some people have almost continuous difficulty in breathing. Others can go significant periods of time between attacks. This latter group can find asthma triggered as part of an allergic response to something in the environment. In acute cases, there’s a lack of oxygen being processed through the lungs and this can be dangerous unless treated urgently.
What treatments are available?
There are a number of different strategies. If your asthma is related to stress, relaxation or medication techniques can help. It’s also important to avoid situations in which you might become stressed. For those whose asthma is associated with allergies, avoidance is also necessary. Some people believe in alternative or complementary treatments but there’s no scientific evidence for their effectiveness. The majority rely on standard inhaled drugs, the bronchodilators, for fast relief and glucocorticoids for long-term relief.
What is the role for Prednisone?
This is used to reduce inflammation and it’s used for asthma and other diseases of the lungs. For this purpose, it’s available in three forms for oral, inhaled and injectable delivery. When taken, it reduces the inflammation and eases the constriction in the airways.
When is Prednisone used?
As a corticosteroid, this is a powerful drug and it’s generally not used unless the more common medications are failing to control a long-term problem. Put simply, if you have a very severe asthma attack, or your asthma is continuous and seriously disrupting your life, the benefits of using a steroid will outweigh the disadvantages.
What is a steroid burst?
This is a very short, high dosage course of Prednisone. The idea is to get the maximum effect in the shortest possible time and then stop before the operation of the adrenal gland is too badly affected. The alternative is a very low dosage taken over a month.
How does it work?
If you take it as a tablet, it passes down into the stomach and then into the bloodstream. The effect is to slow the operation of the autoimmune system and so reduce the inflammation. The alternative delivery system of inhaling the drug passes the active medication directly into the lungs and then through into the bloodstream. Spraying the bronchi is not effective. The drug only works when in the bloodstream.
Must you continue to use the other medications?
Yes. Prednisone only treats the inflammation. It does nothing directly to address the underlying cause of the breathing problems. So, for example, if the trigger for asthma attacks is an allergic response, you will continue to have the allergy and so be at risk of asthma. However, in combination with the other drugs, you should get fast relief. No matter how long the attack may have been in progress, the addition of Prednisone produces a quick response. The steroid burst or longer-term low dosage course of treatment also clears the residual infection and allows the musculature of the bronchi a chance to heal and recover their strength. This gives you a better defense against future attacks and better control over your breathing if you feel an attack coming on.
What to avoid
Used for a short burst or at very low dosage over a longer period, Prednisone is effective and safe. But do not use this drug on a routine basis or for long periods at a low dosage. The risk of side effects is high.