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Inhalers' Whole Body Effects

The art and science of medicine comprise a culture that thinks it is a science. Certain beliefs are accepted as fact when truly they are only the custom of the moment. For instance, it is often repeated that locally applied corticosteroids - asthma inhalers or joint injections - have "only a local effect" and can't ever be hazardous to the whole person. Physicians who believe this have never actually talked to patients whose eczema improves when they use a steroid inhaler, or whose asthma improves when their rotator cuff gets a cortisone shot. 

Honest medical practitioners initiate and report studies to investigate those customs, weighing in on their truth or lack thereof. A new study published in the New Engliand Journal of Medicine, has done just that and uncovered that children treated with inhaled glucocorticoids for asthma show decreased stature that persists into adulthood, a known side effect of systemic glucocorticoids and now associated with inhaled use as well.

Decreased growth in and of itself is only moderately worrisome, but is greatly worrisome as a marker for potential generalized systemic effects of steroids including reduced immunity, tendency to weight gain and metabolic syndrome, among others. 

Consider healthy approaches to treating asthma, ask your physician for medical alternatives as well, and look for an upcoming new Health Topic addressing Healthy Steps for Asthma.

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