Why Your Asthma Treatment May Be Bad For Your Brain

Asthma is a respiratory disease that causes airways in the lungs to become inflamed, which makes it difficult to breathe (via WebMD). Some 25 million Americans live with asthma, and symptoms can vary from mild to severe. In most cases, medication is often used to control symptoms. Those living with moderate to severe asthma need to treat their symptoms quickly to avoid a medical emergency. Among the most common medications prescribed for asthma are inhalers, bronchodilators, and oral drugs.

Other asthma medications include corticosteroids, which are helpful in treating asthma because they reduce swelling. The Mayo Clinic reports that corticosteroids are the most effective drug when it comes to treating asthma, and when used regularly, they can help control attacks. There are many types of corticosteroids, but glucocorticoids are one of the most effective to help minimize inflammation, per Drugs.com. While these drugs may offer relief for patients, new research shows that they could cause changes in the brain.

Some corticosteroids affect white matter

The recent study published in BMJ Open involved 222 patients that used oral glucocorticoids and 557 that used inhaled glucocorticoids, who did not have a medical history of neurological, psychiatric, or mood disorders. The data also included a control group of 24,106 people who didn't use glucocorticoids.

The results from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans and cognitive tests, both oral and inhaled, showed an association between glucocorticoids and decreased white matter integrity. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, white matter is responsible for delivering information to different areas of the brain. In addition, individuals taking these drugs also reported experiencing neuropsychiatric side effects. However, the effects were more pronounced in those who took oral drugs rather. Although experts noted that more research was needed, they also stated that it was important to raise awareness of these findings because these drugs are being used widely for various conditions.