What Are Inhaled Corticosteroids?

Female Using Asthma Inhaler. Photo © Getty Images- Stockbyte

Inhaled corticosteroids (ICS), also known as inhaled steroids, are the most potent anti-inflammatory controller medications available for the treatment of your asthma today and are the current mainstay of treatment once you need more than a rescue inhaler for your asthma. Inhaled corticosteroids improve asthma control more effectively than any other agent used as a single treatment. Inhaled corticosteroids help prevent chronic asthma symptoms such as:

How Do Inhaled Corticosteroids Work?

Inhaled corticosteroids prevent asthma symptoms by doing the following in your lungs:

  • Blocking the late-phase immune reaction to an allergen
  • Reducing airway hyperresponsiveness
  • Decreasing inflammation and inhibiting inflammatory cells such as mast cells, eosinophils, and basophils

Do I Need An Inhaled Corticosteroids?

You and your physician may want to consider inhaled corticosteroids if any of the following apply to you:

  • You use rescue β-agonist treatments, such as Albuterol, more than 2 days per week.
  • You have asthma symptoms more than twice weekly.
  • You meet certain criteria on spirometry.
  • Your asthma interferes with your daily activities.
  • You have needed oral steroids 2 or more times in the last year.

How Effective Are Inhaled Corticosteroids?

Inhaled corticosteroids have been found to improve a number of important asthma outcomes such as:

However, not all patients respond similarly to inhaled corticosteroids.

Common Inhaled Corticosteroids

Common inhaled corticosteroids include:

  • Flovent (Fluticasone)
  • Pulmicort (Budesonide)
  • Azmacort (Triamcinolone)
  • Aerobid (Flunisolide)
  • Qvar(Beclomethasone)

Side Effects of Inhaled Corticosteroids

Because inhaled corticosteroids are not absorbed into the body like oral steroids, inhaled corticosteroids are less likely to cause the side effects that you may experience with oral steroids. Overall, the risk of side effects is very low, but there are several things you can do to decrease your risk of side effects.


National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Accessed: August 16, 2009. Expert Panel Report 3 (EPR3): Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma

Continue Reading