Inhaled steroids, also called inhaled corticosteroids, are considered to be the most effective medications for controlling asthma when taken regularly. They work continuously to reduce swelling of the airways.
It can take weeks for an inhaled corticosteroid to reduce the inflammation in your airways, so be patient. The longer you are using it, the less you will need to use your reliever medication, since your asthma will be better controlled. Inhaled corticosteroids are not for the relief of sudden-onset asthma symptoms.
When you are feeling better, do not stop taking the inhaled corticosteroid. Instead, talk to your healthcare provider about adjusting the dose. The inhaled corticosteroid is keeping your asthma under control. If you stop taking it, the inflammation and your symptoms will return.
The common side effects of inhaled corticosteroids are hoarse voice, sore throat, and a mild throat infection called thrush (yeast infection). Sore throat and thrush are commonly caused by poor puffer technique. Show your healthcare provider how you use your puffer. Rinsing out your mouth with water after every dose of inhaled corticosteroids will also help reduce these side effects. If you are using a pressurized MDI (pMDI) inhaled steroid, then doctors recommend the use of a spacer device, especially for children. A spacer slows down the delivery of the aerosol droplets that carry the medicine, making delivery even better targeted to get into the airways. Remember, spacers should not be used with dry-powered devices such as the DISKUS® or Turbuhaler®.
Doctors generally prescribe inhaled corticosteriods over oral (tablet or liquid) corticosteroids, because the inhaled medication is more targeted. In other words, when it’s inhaled, medication goes directly into the lungs where it’s needed. Unlike oral medicines, inhaled steroids do not have to pass through other parts of the body where they’re not needed, and as a result are less likely to cause unwanted side effects.
Most people with asthma achieve good control with a corticosteroid inhaler. Inability to achieve good control with a corticosteroid inhaler should raise a red flag, and your asthma should be reassessed.
There are a number of misconceptions about inhaled corticosteroids. For example, some people mistakenly believe that they are the same as the anabolic steroids that are sometimes abused by athletes. Learn more below.
Frequently Asked Questions About Steroids
Inhaled corticosteroids are the best option for treating asthma and should be used on a regular basis.