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Asthma Health Center

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Bronchodilators and Asthma

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Are There Common Side Effects of Bronchodilators Used for Asthma?

Bronchodilators can have side effects such as:

How Do the Anticholinergic Bronchodilators Work?

The anticholinergics are bronchodilators mainly used for treating COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease such as emphysema) and not commonly used for asthma.

Atrovent (an anticholinergic bronchodilator) is available as an inhaler and also in a nebulizer solution. A dry throat is the most common side effect. If the medication gets in the eyes, it may cause blurred vision for a short period of time. A long-acting anticholinergic inhaler, Spiriva (tiotropium), is also available for patients with COPD (as proven by airway obstruction that persists after an inhaled bronchodilator).

What Is the Bronchdilator Theophylline?

Theophylline is a relatively weak but inexpensive bronchodilator that has a chemical similar to caffeine. Theophylline relaxes the smooth muscle that surrounds the airways.

Theophylline is sold as a generic pill or under the brand names Uniphyl and Theo-24. Theophylline is available as an oral (pill and liquid) or intravenous (through the vein) drug. Theophylline is available in short and long-acting forms and prevents asthma symptoms, especially nighttime symptoms. It is used less often for asthma, because it requires blood-level monitoring.

What Are the Side Effects of Theophylline?

Side effects of theophylline include:

These side effects may also be a sign of having taken too much medication. Your doctor will check your blood levels of the drug to make sure you are receiving the proper amount.

Always tell your doctors if you take theophylline for asthma, because certain medications, such as some antibiotics, seizure medicines, and ulcer medicines, can interact with theophylline. Also, make sure your doctor knows about any other medical conditions you may have, because some diseases and illnesses can change how your body responds to theophylline.

And keep in mind that not only is smoking and exposure to cigarette smoke especially dangerous for those with asthma, but it can also interfere with how your body responds to theophylline. Therefore, it is best to avoid smoke and cigarette smoking.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on January 20, 2015
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