Asthma is a common problem for both the young and old, and it can be of varying intensities – mild or severe. Air passages get obstructed with mucus both intermittently and chronically.
New developments and research are being undertaken to find alternative and better medicines to cure the problem. The discovery of new drugs and treatment strategies, are equally important.
Asthma is of two major types i.e., a bronchospastic kind when there is a sudden muscular narrowing of air passages, and the inflammatory type which not only narrows the air passages but also creates mucus.
Today, most of the modes of treatment focus on methods of preventing or treating inflammation.
Active inflammation requires treatment with the regular corticosteroids. Some individuals require these cortisteroids on a regular basis to prevent the progress of the disease. Inhaled corticosteroids may also be effective in some patients who primarily suffer from asthma. Additional drugs that are not related to the cortisone family are under study, and it is hoped that within a number of years there will be alternate approaches to the problem of inflammation in bronchial asthma.
If taken for long periods, corticosteroids gradually reduce the likelihood of an asthma attack by making the airways less sensitive. Long-term use of corticosteroids, especially larger doses taken by mouth, produce side effects.
Treating asthma with bronchodilators:
Bronchodilators relieve asthma symptoms by relaxing the airway muscles. This action rapidly opens the airways, lets more air come in and out of the lungs. As a result, breathing improves. Bronchodilators also help clear mucus from the lungs. As the airways open, the mucus move more freely and can be coughed out more easily.
There are three main types of bronchodilator medications:
* beta 2-agonists (short and long-acting forms),
* anticholinergic drugs, and
Beta 2-agonists – short-acting inhaled form:
These are also called “quick acting or rescue” medications because they relieve asthma symptoms very quickly by opening the airways. These inhalers are the best for treating sudden and severe or new asthma symptoms. They work within 20 minutes and last four to six hours.
They are available in oral form as pills or liquid. Oral forms of beta 2-agonists tend to have more side effects because they are in higher doses and are absorbed throughout the bloodstream to get to the lungs. Inhaled forms are deposited directly in the lungs and therefore have fewer side effects.
* Long-acting forms of beta 2-agonists are used to control asthma. These drugs take longer to show effect, but their benefits last longer, even up to 12 hours. They are available as inhalers as well as pills. When the long-acting beta-adrenergic agonists are used together with inhaled corticosteroids, better results are obtained.
Side effects of beta 2-agonists include:
* Nervous or shaky feeling
* Overexcitement or hyperactivity
* Increased heart rate
Quite often, beta-2 agonists are inhaled using metered-dose inhalers. The pressure turns the drug into a fine spray containing a measured dose of drug. Inhalation deposits the drug directly in the airways, so that it acts quickly, but the drug may not reach the airways that are severely obstructed. For people who are unable to use a metered-dose inhaler, spacers or holding chambers can be used. A dry powder drug formulation is also available, which is easier for some to use.
Anticholinergic drugs –
These are used to control asthma and is not a rescue or quick-relief drug. It is available in both a metered-dose inhaler and a nebuliser solution. They work best when used with a short-acting beta 2-agonist inhaler. Anticholinergic drugs take about 60 minutes before they start working.
Doctors use anticholinergic drugs mainly in the emergency situations in combination with a beta-2 agonist. When used alone, anticholinergics are only marginally effective.
Side effects are minor, with dry throat being the most common.
Theophylline drugs –
Theophylline is another type of bronchodilator that is available as an oral (pill and liquid) or intravenous (through the vein) drug. It is long-acting and prevents asthma attacks. Theophylline is used to treat difficult-to-control or severe asthma and must be taken daily (but only under medical supervision).
Side effects include:
* Irregular heartbeat
* Muscle cramps
* Jittery or nervous feeling
These symptoms may be a sign of having taken too much medication. Your doctor will check your blood levels to make sure you are receiving the proper amount.
Make sure your doctor knows about any other medical conditions you are having, since some diseases and illnesses can change how your body responds to asthma drugs.
Latest in asthma drug therapy:
Leukotriene Modifiers: These are the newest drugs available to help control asthma. They are anti-inflammatory drugs, which prevent the synthesis of leukotrienes (chemicals made by the body that cause bronchoconstriction). These drugs, orally taken, are used to prevent asthma attacks rather than treat them, but can be used during an attack as well.
Cromolyn and Nedocromil: These inhaled anti-inflammatory drugs, are useful for preventing but not treating an attack. These drugs may be helpful for children who have asthma and for people who develop exercise induced asthma.
Homeopathy treatment of asthma:
Homeopathy has been quite successful in treating people with ssthma. Many people have been cured and many of them have been able to control their asthma. Children with asthma respond extremely well to homeopathic treatment and they can be cured of their asthma if treatment is started at a very early stage.
Ayurvedic treatment of asthma:
Ayurvedic medicines are safe and cure the problem to a great extent. A few common medicines are Swaskuthar ras, Sitopaladi choorna, Vasavleha etc.
Lung tonic – Make a paste using black resin, dates, long pippali and honey, in equal quantity. Take one teaspoonful of it morning and evening with warm milk.
Some simple home remedies:
* Mix 10 to 15 drops of garlic juice in warm water and drink for asthma relief.
* Mix onion juice 1/4 cup, honey 1 tablespoon and black pepper 1/4 tablespoon, and consume it.
Make a glass of juice using 2/3 carrot juice, 1/3 spinach juice – thrice a day.