Bronchodilator therapy is a medical treatment for opening constricted airways in the lungs caused by asthma, COPD, and other respiratory ailments. Patients inhale a non-steroidal medication that relaxes the airway muscles, improving the flow of air and loosening mucous for discharge. There are both short- and long-acting bronchodilators, depending on whether the breathing problem is sudden and acute or being managed for the duration. Several types of medication have been shown effective in opening narrowed air passages.

Respiratory care is a major focus at Baptist Health. Our physicians, therapists, and other providers stay up-to-date with the latest advances in treating pulmonary conditions and diseases. You’ll receive the best that medicine has to offer, always with a human touch.

Why Would I Receive Bronchodilator Therapy?

Bronchodilators are used to treat complications arising from respiratory conditions such as:

  • Allergies or allergic reactions
  • Asthma
  • Bronchitis
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD)
  • Emphysema
  • Any pulmonary disorder linked to difficulties in breathing.

Targeted symptoms include congestion, coughing or hacking, shortness of breath, and an inability to clear mucous from the lungs and air passages.

How Will Bronchodilator Therapy Help My Condition?

The lung’s major air passages are called bronchi. With certain respiratory conditions they are subject to bronchospasms, causing them to narrow and obstruct the normal flow of air in and out of the lungs. Constricted bronchi also limit a person’s ability to cough up and eject nasal drainage from the chest cavity. Bronchodilators widen (or “dilate”) constricted airways, restoring ease of breathing. This aids in mucous removal from the respiratory system, as well.

What Should I Expect from Bronchodilator Therapy?

There are three primary categories of bronchodilator. Each works differently to achieve the same effect – the opening of bronchial passages in the lungs:

  • Beta-2 agonists, including formoterol, salbutamol, salmeterol, and vilanterol
  • Anticholinergics, including aclidinium, glycopyrronium, ipratropium, and tiotropium
  • Xanthine derivatives, chiefly theophylline.

Anticholinergics and beta-2 agonists come in short- and long-acting versions. Theophylline is exclusively available in a long-acting form. 

Bronchodilators are administered by means of inhalers, which are usually small handheld devices for breathing medicine directly into the mouth and air passages. Different types of inhalers include:

  • Metered dose inhalers
  • Dry powder inhalers
  • Soft mist inhalers.

Another delivery system for bronchodilators is a nebulizer, which converts a liquid version of the medicine into an aerosol, to be breathed in through a mouthpiece. A few bronchodilators are also available in tablet or syrup form.

What Are the Possible Side Effects?

Bronchodilators have been linked to various side effects. These are partly dependent on dosage size and the type of medicine involved, but, in general, they include:

  • Coughing
  • Dry mouth
  • Anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Tremors or cramps
  • Stomach upset and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Hyperactivity
  • Loss of potassium, a macromineral that is essential to nutritional health.

On occasion, bronchodilators have opposite the intended effect, causing rather than reversing the constriction of air passages.

What Is My Prognosis with Bronchodilator Therapy?

Bronchodilator therapy is an important tool in the management of certain pulmonary conditions, including asthma, COPD, and bronchitis. Different forms of the medication can help control sudden-onset respiratory attacks or reduce the long-term incidence of chronic symptoms. Bronchodilators won’t cure these conditions, but they make coping with them easier.

When It Comes to Respiratory Health, We’re a Breath of Fresh Air

If you’re dealing with a respiratory ailment or condition, see your Baptist Health physician. He or she will be able to assess your condition and determine which medical treatments, if any, are most appropriate for you.

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