People with chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder must weigh risks, benefits, experts say
TUESDAY, Nov. 25 (HealthDay News) -- A new review of existing data confirms that some common inhalers don't boost the life spans of people with the lung disease known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
In fact, these medicines may even raise the risk of pneumonia in patients with COPD, the fourth biggest killer in the United States.
But patients shouldn't stop using the inhalers without consulting their doctors first, because the devices still provide benefit in some cases, said review lead author Dr. M. Bradley Drummond.
"It's about balancing the known benefits with potential risks," said Drummond, a fellow in the division of pulmonary and critical care medicine at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore.
The study was published in the Nov. 26 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease -- which encompasses emphysema and chronic bronchitis -- follows heart disease, cancer and stroke as the leading cause of deaths among Americans, Drummond said. Symptoms include breathlessness, frequent wheezing and coughing. Treatment can ease symptoms, but there is no cure for COPD.
More than 90 percent of cases are related to smoking, Drummond said. Smoke causes abnormal inflammation in the lungs, which destroys the ends of the airways and makes it difficult for the body to extract the oxygen from the air around them, he said.
In many cases, patients can extend their lives by stopping smoking and breathing oxygen. Some turn to inhaled corticosteroids, which reduce inflammation by calming the immune system.
Inhaled corticosteroids, known by brand names such as Pulmicort, Azmacort and Flovent, are commonly used to treat lung conditions like asthma.
But research has suggested that the inhalers aren't right for a
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