Bronchodilator 101: Uses and Side Effects

by | Aug 8, 2017 | Disease Education, Lung Disease, Product Reviews

Bronchodilators are important tools for your health, so it’s best to know it all up front.

Let’s start with the obvious: a bronchodilator is an inhaler-type of medication made for the sole purpose of opening up the airways of the lungs. To put it simply, when diagnosed with a chronic respiratory disease like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pulmonary fibrosis (PF), or interstitial lung disease (ILD), and depending on your stage, a bronchodilator will typically be prescribed as a form of treatment.

However, despite the widespread use of these medications, in many cases, patients are not fully aware of how to use them—and perhaps more importantly, the negative side effects that these medications carry to lasting health. In much the same way that ibuprofen can cure a headache but can carry the risk of damage to the inner lining of the stomach, the use of bronchodilators for the lungs can bring with it a potential for similar adverse effects to your body’s overall health.

With that said, the use of a bronchodilator is still overwhelmingly recommended as a form of treatment for chronic lung disease; however, it’s important to know not only how to use these instruments, but also their lasting effects.

With your health in mind, the Lung Health Institute is here to bring you Bronchodilator 101: The Uses and Side Effects.

What Are Bronchodilators and What Are They For?

As we mentioned above, bronchodilators are commonly prescribed inhaler-type medications that are used to treat inflammation within the airways of the lungs. There are two primary varieties of bronchodilators: short-acting bronchodilators & long—acting bronchodilators.

Short-acting bronchodilators are primarily used in emergency situations. In these special cases where you may be undergoing an exacerbation or heavy fit of coughing or shortness of breath, these inhalers are the type you would use to quickly relieve it. Although these inhalers are great for quick use, the effects aren’t meant to last long-term, hence the moniker of short-acting. The relief they give will wear off just as quickly as it takes to activate them, and will only decrease the amount of air trapped in the lungs momentarily.

When looking at the effectiveness of long-acting bronchodilators, the differences are distinct. As opposed to the emergency use of short-acting bronchodilators, long-acting bronchodilators are geared towards general maintenance. These are inhalers that are meant to be taken periodically over the course of a day (typically twice every 12 hours). It’s important to use these types of inhalers proactively—as in, preventing exacerbations ahead of time. They will typically take effect within 15-30 minutes.

How Do I Know If I’m Using My Bronchodilator Correctly?

Whether or not you’re using your inhaler correctly is an important question, and here’s why: Your doctor just might not have explained how to use it correctly—particularly if it was prescribed immediately after an initial diagnosis. This happens pretty frequently, especially given the emotional state of a patient after diagnosis, and the influx of new and complex information they receive.

With that said, you may also already be taking a variety of medications, and adding another 2-3 with regimented timing may be difficult to keep up with. There are a variety of reasons why using an inhaler as prescribed can be more complex than it appears, but it’s important to understand the underlying causes, as non-adherence to bronchodilator medications is a widespread problem among people with COPD.

To appropriately use your prescribed medication, speak with your doctor thoroughly on its prescribed application. If you didn’t get a chance to speak with your doctor very long, schedule another appointment. Follow the label of your medication to the letter as far as use (don’t overuse or underuse), and, if it requires you take with food, take it with food, etc.

This may sound pretty simple, but it’s easy to neglect medication use when you’re having a good day, and easy to abuse it when you’re having a bad one. The key is balance, so try to discipline yourself in using your medication only as directed.

The Negative Effects of Bronchodilators

Rarely in modern medicine are there strictly positive outcomes without a few negative effects—and the case for bronchodilators is no different. Although these medications are great for reducing inflammation and easing breathing, inhaler use can come with a few downsides. For starters, these medications can cause:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Trembling
  • Palpitations
  • Restlessness
  • Nervousness
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Problems sleeping

Although bronchodilators are predominantly recommended as a form of daily treatment for chronic lung disease, it is important to recognize that, aside from the benefits of this medication in relieving symptoms, they cannot ultimately heal the damage to the lungs. This means that the use of bronchodilators is tragically limited to only reducing symptom expression and sparing your quality of life further decline.

What More Can I Do?

When it comes to treating COPD, there are available treatment options that go further than addressing symptoms alone. However, in managing your quality of life, the first step to take is always to quit smoking if you haven’t already. The second would be to address your overall health through diet and exercise.

With these behavioral changes, it’s possible to greatly affect the pronouncement of symptoms within those with COPD, emphysema and pulmonary fibrosis. However, when lifestyle changes fail to improve your quality of life in the way that you may expect, it may be time to consider cellular therapy. Rather than addressing the symptoms of lung disease, cellular therapy may directly affect disease progression and may improve quality of life.

For more information on cellular therapy and what it could mean for your life moving forward, contact us today or call us at 888-745-6697. Our patient coordinators will walk you through our available treatment options, talk through your current health and medical history and determine a qualifying treatment plan that works best for you.

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