Asthma Treatment Options
With proper treatment, people with asthma can experience life to the fullest. A diagnosis of asthma does not have to limit your activities.
Asthma Management Plan
An asthma management plan empowers patients to control their asthma instead of their asthma controlling them. An effective plan includes:
- Appropriate environmental control including avoidance of asthma “triggers” (i.e. allergies, exercise, irritants, heightened emotions, weather changes, etc.).
- Objective measurement of lung function (i.e. peak flow meters).
- Recognition of early symptoms.
- Use of asthma preventive medications.
- Knowledgeable use of step-up treatment utilizing an “asthma action plan.”
Asthma medications typically fall into two categories—long-term control and quick relief. Long-term control medications are taken on a long-term basis to achieve and maintain control of asthma. These medications are also called preventative, controller or maintenance medications.
Quick relief (or “rescue”) medications are quick acting and are taken to provide relief from symptoms of cough, wheeze or shortness of breath due to an asthma “flare-up.”
Long-Term Control Medications—are taken daily to maintain control of asthma. There are three types of long-term control medications:
- Anti-inflammatory medications including inhaled corticosteroids (Flovent, Pulmicort, Vanceril, Azmacort, Q-Var and AeroBid) and non-corticosteroids including Tilade and Intal. Corticosteroids are the most effective long-term control medications for asthma.
- Long-acting bronchodilators (Serevent or Foradil) are used to control bronchoconstriction. They are NOT recommended for quick relief of asthma symptoms. These medications are used in addition to anti-inflammatory medication. There is one combination corticosteroid and long-acting bronchodilator called Advair.
- Leukotriene modifiers (Accolate or Singulair) are mild asthma medications that come in pill or granule form and may decrease bronchospasm, mucus production and inflammation.
- Anti-IgE therapy (Xolair)—is a new injectable treatment for people with moderate to severe allergic asthma. For people with allergic asthma, this treatment works by reducing the production and diffusion of Immunoglobulin E (IgE), a primary trigger of allergic inflammation in the airways of the lung. Your doctor on a regular basis injects this drug.
Quick-Relief Medications—are used for immediate relief of bronchoconstriction and exacerbated asthma symptoms. There are three types of quick-relief medications:
- Short-acting beta agonists (Albuterol, Proventil, Ventolin, Maxair, and Xopenex) relieve asthma symptoms quickly and some can help prevent exercise-induced asthma. These are the medications of choice in treating an asthma episode.
- Anticholinergics (Atrovent, Combivent) are sometimes used in conjunction with short-acting beta-agonists during an asthma episode.
- Oral Corticosteroids (Orapred, Prelone, Pediapred, and Prednisone) are anti-inflammatory agents used to treat asthma flare-ups. These agents take up to eight hours to become effective.