Corticosteroids have long been the treatment of choice in asthma control, whether oral, inhaled, topical or injected. The downside to this, are the side effects of the drug. When is it necessary then and how long should it be used?
Corticosteroids are very effective in asthma treatment because of its immediate effect by suppressing airway inflammation, through the use of synthetic like hormones just like what the adrenal glands do.
A serious side effect in the use of this drug is the suppression of the immune system which places the patient in a compromised condition.
Other side effects include: fluid retention causing swelling of the lower legs, increased blood pressure and intracranial pressure, weight gain and mood swings.
Long term use is associated with conditions like: Cataracts, Worsened Diabetes due to high blood sugar level, various infections due to compromised immune system, risk for Osteoporosis and fracture due to calcium loss, menstrual irregularities, and suppressed adrenal gland function, easy bruising and poor wound healing.
The bottom line is, although corticosteroids have various side effects it remains to be the most effective means of asthma control. What you can do is to discuss with your health care provider the options on how to minimize these side effects without compromising the significant effect of the drug.
Here are some ways you can do to reduce the risk of corticosteroid side effects:
- Discuss with your health care provider about low-dose, short-term intermittent dosing of corticosteroid. So you have an option to take it every other day rather than daily.
- Ask about the use of inhaled corticosteroids which, reaches the lung directly without having to pass through the other systems of your body leading to fewer side effects.
- Make healthy choices during therapy like minimizing your caloric intake to minimize excess weight gain, involve yourself in a regular exercise or physical activity that is allowed by your health care provider and take Vitamin D and Calcium supplements to counter the calcium loss and the incidence of Osteoporosis.
- Keep in mind that discontinuing corticosteroid therapy needs time and should be tapered gradually over time to give your adrenal glands some time to recover and to function normally again.