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What are the Side Effects from Inhaled Steroids or Steroid Use for Asthma?

Side effects of steroid tablets for asthma

Steroid tablets are one of the main options for asthma treatment, but they are also one of the most difficult types of treatment to manage. Steroid tablets come with a number of side effects and many of these can be quite dangerous to the person taking them. For instance, cataracts, increased risk of heart disease and diabetes can stem from such tablets. They can also be linked to developing kidney stones or kidney failure, acne and mood changes.

Cortisone drugs have a lot of different problems associated with them.

Inhaled steroids

Inhaled steroids have a significantly reduced number of side effects as compared to steroid tablets, so it’s generally recommended to use inhalants in combination with other medications which seems to work well. Patients who are on oral steroid tablets should taper off them as quickly as possible due to their risky side effects.

Any steroid can be risky, so caution must be taken while using inhaled steroids as well. People using inhaled steroids should rinse their mouth thoroughly after ingestion, brush their teeth, and even use a cloth to remove the excess steroid in their system. Gargling with mouthwash is also recommended.

The history of inhaled steroids

Inhaled steroids were first introduced in the mid 1960s. For many decades, they have been prescribed for millions of people with asthma and other lung diseases worldwide. No serious long-term adverse effects have emerged. For adults who are given typical doses, they do not cause degeneration or atrophy of the normal tissues of the respiratory passageway. They do not predispose to lung infections. They do not cause cancer, diabetes, or high blood pressure. We need to look more carefully at the two phrases used above: "for adults" and "typical doses".

Children's bones may be sensitive to even very small amounts of steroids that can enter the bloodstream after inhalation. There is currently debate — and considerable ongoing research — to determine if inhaled steroids might slow bone growth and reduce a child's ultimate height. Also, when given in very large doses, (many puffs from a high-concentration steroid inhaler), the amount of steroid medicine that spills over into the bloodstream can become significant. Although the effect is small, like the effect of a very small dose of prednisone, over the years it can potentially add up to serious harmful effects.

Long-term risks

High doses of inhaled steroids that are taken for a long time can probably predispose to cataracts, glaucoma and thinning of the skin and bones. As a result, your doctor will probably only have you take high doses of inhaled steroids in severe cases as a means to avoid steroid tablets. He or she will constantly work with you to attempt to reduce the dose of inhaled steroids to a more conventional and safer range. Remember that not taking inhaled steroids for fear of side effects may ultimately result in an asthma attack, and severe asthma attacks are often treated with steroid tablets which have significantly worse side effects than the inhaled steroids you feared in the first place. 

For these reasons, it is crucial to discuss your personal preferences with your doctor and learn about the risks associated with both inhaled and tablet forms of steroids.