Long-term asthma control medicines are taken daily, whether you have symptoms or not. Most are anti-inflammatories and work by reducing inflammation in the airways of the lungs. These medicines help to prevent symptoms, so they are different from quick-relief medicines, which are used to help relieve sudden asthma symptoms when they occur.
Below are several different types of long-term asthma control medicines.
Inhaled corticosteroids treat the inflammation associated with asthma and are very similar to a chemical that the body naturally produces to combat inflammation. Because they are inhaled, they go directly to the airways of the lungs to help reduce inflammation. They should be taken every day as prescribed, even when you are not experiencing symptoms.
It’s important to know that inhaled corticosteroids are NOT anabolic steroids, the steroids used by some athletes to build muscle.
Leukotriene Receptor Antagonists
Leukotriene receptor antagonists belong to a class of long-term control medicines that work by blocking the action of leukotrienes, which are chemicals that can increase inflammation in the airways of your lungs.
Leukotriene receptor antagonists are available in the form of pills or tablets, not as inhalers. They can be prescribed alone to treat mild persistent asthma or in combination with inhaled corticosteroids to treat moderate or severe persistent asthma.
Immunomodulators are medications used to help regulate or normalize the immune system. These are also known as biological medications.
Interleukin-5 (IL-5) is a molecule responsible for managing the level of eosinophils, a type of white blood cell that is part of the immune system. Too many eosinophils can cause airway inflammation, which in turn can cause your asthma to be more severe. Medicines called IL-5 inhibitors help reduce eosinophil levels. Doctors can measure eosinophil levels in the blood by using a blood test. IL-5 inhibitors are typically given by injection or infusion to prevent asthma attacks in those patients whose asthma does not remain controlled, even though they take their inhaler medicines appropriately. IL-5 inhibitors are add-on treatment to other asthma controller medicines for people with severe asthma who have airway inflammation caused by eosinophils.
Immunoglobulin E, or IgE, is an antibody in the immune system. When people with asthma are exposed to allergens, their bodies launch an immune response, producing IgE antibodies that can cause inflammation and a worsening of asthma symptoms. Medicines called IgE inhibitors block this action, helping to prevent asthma symptoms before they occur.
IgE inhibitors are typically given by injection once or twice a month to people whose moderate to severe persistent allergic asthma is not controlled with inhaled corticosteroids.
Theophylline is a bronchodilator, a type of medicine that relaxes the muscles around the airways of the lungs. It is taken by mouth rather than inhaled.
Theophylline is sometimes used alone to treat mild persistent asthma, but most of the time it is used in combination with inhaled corticosteroids to treat moderate or severe persistent asthma and should be taken every day as directed by your healthcare provider. If your provider prescribes theophylline, he or she may watch your blood levels closely to make sure the dose is right for you.
Long-Acting Muscarinic Antagonists (LAMAs)
Long-acting muscarinic antagonists (LAMAs) can be used as an add-on treatment to other medications in patients with a history of asthma attacks. LAMAs (maintenance medications) should be taken every day. LAMAs relax the airway smooth muscle, open the airways, and reduce the risk of asthma attacks. It may take a month or two to feel the benefits of LAMAs.