Prednisone, a type of corticosteroid, is often prescribed to patients with cases of severe asthma. Doctors prescribe prednisone for asthma because the steroids soothe inflammation in the airways that lead to an asthma attack. Although prednisone for asthma can help patients who were previously unable to control their symptoms, it does have side effects that can be serious, especially if taken for a long period of time. Potential side effects include osteoporosis and weakness in the muscles.
When a patient experiences a severe asthma attack and needs to be hospitalized, prednisone is often prescribed. In some cases, a patient may use prednisone for asthma if his asthma does not improve with other treatments but he hasn't had to be admitted to the hospital due to his symptoms. Unlike other types of corticosteroids that are used to treat asthma, prednisone is an oral, not inhaled, medication.
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While inhaled corticosteroids are directed at the lungs and do not impact the bloodstream or rest of the body, prednisone, a systemic steroid, goes to the blood. It's able to more effectively control a severe attack or get previously uncontrolled symptoms under control. It also increases a person's risk for side effects.
There are several side effects that can occur if a person uses prednisone for asthma for a short period of time. The medication can cause the body to retain salt, leading to bloating. A person may also gain weight and have elevated blood sugar and blood pressure. Short-term use side effects may go away if a patient uses a lower dose of the medication.
If taken for a long period of time, the side effects of prednisone become more serious. Children who take the medication for asthma may experience slower growth, although they most likely will reach a normal height and size as adults. Taking the medication increases a patient's risk for osteoporosis. To counteract the osteoporosis, a patient may also take calcium supplements and vitamin D while on prednisone.
Extended use of the medication can also cause damage to the adrenal glands, which produce cortisol, the body's natural corticosteroid. When prednisone is used for a long time, the adrenal glands may stop producing cortisol. Suddenly stopping the medication can lead to adrenal crisis, the symptoms of which include nausea and shock.
To get the most benefit of prednisone for asthma, a patient may use a very low dose or take the medicine every other day to cut down on the risk for severe side effects. He may have to keep an eye on his food intake to prevent weight gain and bloating. When it's time to stop treatment, the patient should be slowly weaned off of the medication.