What are the Different Types of COPD Inhalers?

Erin J. Hill

Inhalers are devices used for the treatment of breathing problems in order to help patients breath more easily. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) inhalers come with various types of medications inside. There are three main types of medication that are used inside COPD inhalers. Long-acting bronchodilator inhalers, short-acting bronchodilator inhalers, and inhaled steroids are the most commonly used varieties. The type of medication used will depend on the patient and the severity of symptoms.

Smoking is a major risk factor for COPD.
Smoking is a major risk factor for COPD.

One of the most common COPD inhalers is the short-acting bronchodilator inhaler. This is a medication which works within 15 minutes to dilate the bronchi, or airways, inside of the lungs. These are generally effective for three to six hours at a time and are intended primarily for those who have mild to moderate forms of COPD. They are not fully effective for all patients, so if symptoms persist a doctor should be notified.

Metered dose inhalers are the most common type of inhaler used in COPD therapy.
Metered dose inhalers are the most common type of inhaler used in COPD therapy.

Patients who have more severe forms of the condition may need more long-lasting COPD inhalers. Long-acting bronchodilator inhalers work in the same way as short-acting ones, but they last for a lot longer at a time. Most last at least 12 hours, and some last even longer than that. Patients who need round the clock medication are often prescribed this form of inhaler.

Those who have very severe symptoms which flare up frequently may require COPD inhalers which contain steroids. These can be used in combination with long-acting inhaler or both medications may be combined into one inhaler. Steroid based inhalers generally do not reduce or alleviate symptoms once they have occurred, but they may prevent flare-ups from occurring.

Various methods for delivering medication are also used in COPD inhalers. The most common type is a pressurized form which uses gases to propel medication into the patient’s mouth. To use one, patients generally press on the top of the canister to deliver a dose. These come in various sub-types as well. Other inhalers use powdered forms of the medication and patients breath in at the mouth piece to receive a dose.

Any patient who has COPD and feels that his or her inhaler is not acting effectively should contact his or her doctor right away. There are often additional treatment options. Some patients may use more than one type of inhaler along with oxygen given through a face mask. Inhalers should only be used as directed by a doctor or pharmacist.

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