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Inhalers vs Oral medication for Asthma

Difference between inhaled and oral medication

Using an inhaler for asthma or consuming oral medicines are the two forms of asthma treatment. The medication used in both the forms is technically referred to as corticosteroids, which suppress the immune system and help reduce inflammation. Once the inflammation from the air passage is alleviated, the lungs become less sensitive to triggers, thus reducing the risk of an asthma attack.

Before using any kind of inhaler or oral medication, always consult your doctor and consume only prescribed medication.

Although the mechanisms of action in inhaled and oral corticosteroids are similar, they have different methods for usage, adverse effects, and body interactions with the medicine.

Mechanism of action used by the two forms:

  1. Inhaled corticosteroids- Such inhaled medications require smaller doses, have fewer adverse effects, and are safer for long-term usage since they are absorbed directly into the lungs. For those with asthma, they are considered the first line of treatment.
  2. Oral corticosteroids- Because they are administered systemically through the bloodstream, oral corticosteroids require higher doses, have greater risk of adverse effects, and are more dangerous when used over a long term. They are only suggested under very serious circumstances.

Usage period of medication:

  1. Reliever inhalers are of two types. The first type has a short acting beta 2 agonist. Reliever Inhalers are meant to provide immediate relief from shortness of breath. The second type contains a combination of inhaled corticosteroids and a fast acting bronchodilator that can be taken as and when needed as prescribed by the doctor.

Controller Inhalers with inhaled corticosteroids are typically used once or twice a day based on a long-term medication plan as prescribed by the doctor.

  1. Oral corticosteroids-
  • Severe asthma attacks that necessitate hospitalisation or emergency treatment are usually treated with nebulized inhaled corticosteroids to reduce inflammation. Post this emergency treatment, the patient has to go through a short course of oral medication to prevent another attack.

Side effects:

  • Inhaled corticosteroids are often correlated with fewer and less severe side effects than oral corticosteroids. Though, this isn’t always the case.
  • The side effects that are commonly related to inhaled corticosteroids are usually limited to the upper respiratory system. On the other hand, oral steroids can have a wide range of side effects that affect multiple organs.

Advantages of inhalers

  • The medication is atomized into extremely small particles which allows for more effective absorption by the lungs compared to absorption via the bloodstream in the oral method.
  • Relatively fewer and more precise amounts of medication are administered, whilst the oral medication comes in standard tablet forms.
  • Inhaled corticosteroids pose a lower risk of severe side effects compared to oral corticosteroids, but neither is risk free.
  • Inhaled medication does not react with the body or immune system in a way that requires adjustment in treatment, whereas in some cases, oral medications may require adjustments.

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