How Do Corticosteroid Inhalants Work?

Reviewed on 1/12/2022

How do corticosteroid inhalants work?

Corticosteroid inhalants are orally inhaled medications for the prevention and maintenance treatment of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Corticosteroid inhalants are powerful anti-inflammatory agents that prevent inflammation of the airway, relieve symptoms of asthma and COPD, and ease breathing.

Inhaled corticosteroids have an effect on many types of immune cells such as mast cells, eosinophils, basophils, lymphocytes, macrophages, and neutrophils in the airway. Corticosteroids prevent immune cells from releasing pro-inflammatory substances such as histamine, leukotrienes, cytokines, and eicosanoids, which are associated with asthma attacks.

Corticosteroid inhalants may be used as monotherapy or may be combined with other medications when asthma is not adequately controlled with corticosteroids alone. Medications combined with corticosteroid inhalants help:

  • Relax bronchial smooth muscles
  • Inhibit hypersensitivity reactions in the bronchial passage
  • Reduce mucus secretion in the respiratory system
  • Improve lung function

Medications combined with corticosteroid inhalants include:

  • Long-acting beta2 agonists (LABAs): LABAs enhance the activity of beta-2 adrenergic receptors, protein molecules on cell surfaces that are stimulated by epinephrine, a natural hormone in the body. LABAs relax bronchial muscles and inhibit hypersensitivity reactions from mast cells, a type of immune cells that initiate allergic reactions.
  • Long-acting muscarinic antagonists (LAMA): LAMAs block the activity of muscarinic receptors which make muscles contract in response to acetylcholine, a chemical that nerve endings secrete. LAMAs relax bronchial smooth muscles, reduce mucus secretion in the respiratory system and improve lung function.


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How are corticosteroid inhalants used?

Corticosteroid inhalants are administered as oral inhalations in the form of powders, aerosolized tiny particles or droplets, or solutions nebulized into a fine mist. Many types of inhalation devices such as metered dose inhalers and nebulizers are available on prescription.

Corticosteroid inhalants are used in the treatment of the following conditions:


Orphan designation:

What are side effects of corticosteroid inhalants?

Side effects of corticosteroid inhalants may include the following:

Information contained herein is not intended to cover all possible side effects, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. Check with your doctor or pharmacist to make sure these drugs do not cause any harm when you take them along with other medicines. Never stop taking your medication and never change your dose or frequency without consulting your doctor.

What are names of some corticosteroid inhalant drugs?

Generic and brand names of corticosteroid inhalant drugs include:


COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is the same as adult-onset asthma. See Answer

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