Prednisone & Breathing Disorders


What are restrictive lung diseases?

When we are healthy, we breathe in air, extract oxygen and expel carbon dioxide. But if something prevents the lungs from fully inflating, this reduces the amount of oxygen we can extract from the air and, untreated, will cause us increasing distress. Think of the entire package as being like a pump.

What reduces lung volume?

There are a range of diseases that cause inflammation or damage to the tissue of the lungs. There can be external factors affecting the muscles designed to lift and open the rib cage, link the diaphragm, and so on. So the pump may not work either because it physically cannot take enough air into the lungs, or because the lungs themselves are not working properly.

Steroids and lung diseases

Many of the lung diseases are caused or made worse by inflammation. Tissue becomes inflamed because of the way your autoimmune system is working. So, when you have an asthma attack or you have an obstructive pulmonary disease, steroids are used to close down the immune system which, in turn, prevents further inflammation.

How is Prednisone supplied for this purpose?

Prednisone is the generic name. The same drug is sold under a number of different brand names and in different formats. For use at home, you can buy Prednisone as a tablet and a concentrate. Both of these supply a comparatively high dose for this purpose. There is also an inhaler supplying Prednisone as a spray at lower dose. Whereas the tablet and concentrate should only be used once a day unless your doctor says otherwise, the inhaler may be used several times. In a hospital, Prednisone can be given as an injection or through an IV drip. This supplies a significantly higher amount of the drug and this treatment strategy is called a steroid burst.

Prednisone and the treatment of asthma

For routine cases of asthma, it is always better to rely on the standard inhalers both to bring immediate relief when inflammation begins to close the airways, and also to help build up the strength in the surrounding muscles to help prevent further attacks. Given that many cases of asthma are triggered by an allergic response to stimuli in the environment, you can also try to avoid contact with the stimuli as much as possible and have other treatment to reduce the severity of the allergic response. It should only be necessary to resort to Prednisone in two situations.

First, when there is a particularly serious attack which does not respond to the conventional inhalers, a burst of steroids using Prednisone will bring immediate relief. This need only last for a maximum of two days and should not trigger any loss of function in the adrenal gland.

Second, where there is a sequence of attacks of moderate to severe level, it may be appropriate to take a low-dosage course of Prednisone to reduce the inflammation and bring the sequence of attacks to an end.