Many people with asthma or emphysema may be taking their inhaled medications incorrectly, according to a recent study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.
The study, which observed 100 adults hospitalized for asthma or other lung diseases while using their inhalers, found that patients misused metered-dose inhalers nine out of 10 times and Diskus inhalers seven out of 10 times. The patients included in the study were admitted to one of two hospitals in the Chicago area because of serious asthma or a worsening of their COPD, with some patients hospitalized due to near-fatal complications.
For people who use both metered-dose and Diskus inhalers, which researchers note is quite common, learning to use both types of inhalers can be tricky. That is because while both inhalers deliver medication to the lungs, they work by different mechanisms and require different steps to deliver medication. Used mainly as a controller medication, Diskus inhalers require a sharp inhalation for maximum effectiveness. Conversely, metered-dose inhalers, which can be used as both controller and rescue medication, must be inhaled slowly.
Researchers note that one of the biggest problems found in the use of inhalers was that patients failed to breathe out fully before placing the inhaler in their mouth. Another obstacle appeared to be vision problems, which researchers believe may impact patients’ ability to read the inhaler’s instructions and properly use them.
On a positive note, researchers found that it did not take much instruction to improve people’s inhaler use. Of the 100 study participants, 42 were given one or two lessons on how to use the devices and all were able to master the techniques for both inhalers.
For people with asthma or COPD, trouble controlling symptoms may be a sign that the inhaler isn’t being used correctly. That is why it is important for people using inhalers for lung disease treatment to bring them to their doctors’ appointments and demonstrate how they use the devices at home. Doctors will then be able to correct poor practices and ensure that patients are receiving the correct dose of medication to their lungs.