What Are Inhaled Corticosteroids?

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  • Written By: Meshell Powell
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 15 September 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
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Inhaled corticosteroids are prescription medications that are primarily used to treat the symptoms of asthma, although they may be prescribed for other respiratory illnesses as well. These medications are designed to reduce airway inflammation and decrease mucus production so that breathing becomes easier and more comfortable. Some of the most commonly reported side effects of inhaled corticosteroids include hoarseness, sore throat, and coughing. Additional symptoms may include decreased bone density, glaucoma, or a type of fungal infection known as thrush. Any specific questions or concerns about the use of inhaled corticosteroids in an individual situation should be discussed with a doctor or other medical professional.

Specific asthma symptoms that may be relieved by the use of inhaled corticosteroids include shortness of breath, wheezing, and chest tightness. Those with a chronic cough associated with this respiratory illness may also benefit from the use of this type of medication. Inhaled corticosteroids may be used alone or in combination with other forms of asthma treatment, depending on the specific situation.


Most people are able to use inhaled corticosteroids without experiencing significant side effects, although any bothersome symptoms that begin after starting treatment with these drugs should be reported to a doctor for further evaluation. A slight cough may develop immediately after using the inhaler, but this problem rarely persists for more than a few minutes. Sore throat and hoarseness are also common and are generally temporary. If asthma symptoms worsen, even after using the inhaler, emergency medical attention may be required.

Some people who use inhaled corticosteroids may develop thrush, a type of fungal infection that affects the mouth. Those with this condition may notice white patches on the tongue or other areas of the mouth and may experience varying degrees of mouth pain or discomfort. Prescription antifungal medications are usually prescribed to combat this infection. If thrush becomes a chronic problem, the supervising physician may adjust the dosage of the steroids or prescribe different asthma medications.

Long-term use of inhaled corticosteroids may lead to potentially serious complications, such as decreased bone density in adults or delayed growth patterns in children. Glaucoma or other types of visual disturbances may also develop. Due to these risks, some doctors may choose to prescribe steroid medications for short-term use or for use in emergencies when other inhaled medications do not provide sufficient relief from asthma symptoms. A doctor can help the patient decide on the best form of long-term asthma treatment in each individual situation.



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