How To Treat Severe Asthma, Including Causes and Symptoms

Diagnosing and classifying asthma is key to treating it.

Once asthma has been classified as mild, moderate or severe, a medical professional can take steps to help prevent it from happening in the future.

There are a wide range of medications used to treat severe asthma, ranging from long-term options, to those that will offer quick, almost immediate relief.

In some cases, allergy medications are also used as they can trigger asthma.

Quick Relief Asthma Medications

These medications work as described, offering quick, immediate relief from asthma symptoms.

Common asthma:

  • Short-acting beta agonists – Includes albuterol and levalbuterol, help ease symptoms within minutes of an asthma attack.
  • Anticholinergic agents – Includes bronchodilators, ipratropium and tiotropium, quickly relax airways, allowing for easier breathing.
  • Oral and intravenous corticosteroids – Includes prednisone and methylprednisolone, relieves inflammation of the airway for severe asthma (not recommended for long term use).

Most quick relief asthma medications come on the form of the classic inhaler, or nebulizer, which can include a mouthpiece of face mask.

Long-Term Asthma Treatments

These treatments are often taken daily and designed to keep asthma attacks at bay.

Common asthma treatments

  • Inhaled corticosteroids – With a low risk of side effects, they need to be taken for days, even weeks to become fully effective. Includes fluticasone propionate (Flovent HFA, Flovent Diskus, Xhance), budesonide (Pulmicort Flexhaler, Pulmicort Respules, Rhinocort), ciclesonide (Alvesco), beclomethasone (Qvar Redihaler), mometasone (Asmanex HFA, Asmanex Twisthaler) and fluticasone furoate (Arnuity Ellipta).
  • Combination inhalers – Offer corticosteroid with a long lived beta agonist. Includes fluticasone-salmeterol (Advair HFA, Airduo Digihaler, others), budesonide-formoterol (Symbicort), formoterol-mometasone (Dulera) and fluticasone furoate-vilanterol (Breo Ellipta).
  • Theophylline – A daily pill that relaxes muscles around the airway. Requires regular blood tests.
  • Leukotriene modifiers – Oral medications, taken daily, help relieve asthma symptoms. Includes montelukast (Singulair), zafirlukast (Accolate) and zileuton (Zyflo).

Allergy Medications Used To Treat Asthma

Some forms of asthma can be triggered by allergies. Medications most often used to threat this include:

Common asthma allergy medications:

  • Biologics – allergy medication specifically for people with asthma. Includes omalizumab (Xolair), mepolizumab (Nucala), dupilumab (Dupixent), reslizumab (Cinqair) and benralizumab (Fasenra).
  • Allergy Shots – Given over time, allergy shots can eventually help offer relief from certain types of allergies.

If the before noted severe asthma treatments don’t help alleviate symptoms, a doctor may recommend a Bronchial thermoplasty.

Asthma Symptoms

Asthma symptoms can be quite different for each individual experiencing them, often ranging from mild to severe. The 5 most common symptoms of asthma include:

  • Tightness or pain in the chest
  • Shortness of breathe
  • Wheezing
  • Sleep issues caused by wheezing, coughing or shortness of breathe
  • Increased issues with wheezing or coughing with colds or flu.

While some asthma symptoms can start mild, they can become worse with allergies and or sickness.

Asthma Causes

While the exact cause of asthma is not known, the 4 primary causes include:

  • Your Environment: Whether it’s outside, at home or in the workplace, it’s possible you could come in contact with chemicals or allergens that might cause asthma.
  • Genetics: There are indictions that asthma does run in family genetics.
  • Respiratory Infections: They can lead to lung damage, triggering asthma conditions.
  • Allergies: Some allergic conditions are linked to asthma.