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What is Theophylline?

Theophylline is a therapeutic bronchodilator. It was first derived in 1895 and used as a diuretic. It has a similar structure to theobromine and caffeine, which is naturally present in tea and cocoa.

Theophylline, caffeine, and theobromine all fall under the category of methylxanthines. Theophylline is also known as 1,3-dimethylxanthine. It is a phosphodiesterase (PDE) enzyme inhibitor suitable for treating respiratory diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma.

What are the uses of Theophylline?

The simple mechanism of Theophylline helps relax the muscles in your lungs and opens the air passages to let you breathe more easily. Because of this critical use of Theophylline, it is majorly used to treat illnesses like:

  • Asthma.
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
  • Infant apnea.

Theophylline also has uses in treating:

  • Shortness of breath.
  • Wheezing.
  • Chest tightness caused by asthma.
  • Emphysema.
  • Chronic bronchitis.

Theophylline can also work as a:

  • Muscle relaxant.
  • Diuretic for increasing urine production.
  • Cardiac, bronchial dilation, and central nervous system (CNS) stimulant.
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What are the side effects of Theophylline?

Theophylline has limited therapeutic uses, resulting in its limited use, especially in combination with different drugs. Long-term usage can cause toxicity in your body. Hence, your doctor will recommend regularly monitoring your Theophylline concentration.

Some common side effects that Theophylline can cause are:

  • Headache.
  • Vomiting.
  • Increased stomach acid secretion.
  • Gastroesophageal reflux.
  • A rapid increase in heartbeat.
  • Irritability.
  • Nervousness.

If you’re prescribed Theophylline and have further queries regarding its uses, side effects, dosages and precautions, consult our experts at Yashoda Hospitals.

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FAQ's

1. Why is Theophylline no longer used?

Theophylline is a weak bronchodilator and does not help in reducing lung inflammation. It does little but has very severe side effects. Long-term usage can cause toxicity in the body and affect the central nervous system. Plasma toxicity can occur when plasma concentrations in the serum exceed 20 mg/l. Thus, Theophylline is no longer used as widely as it was in the 1900s.

2. How long does it take for Theophylline to work?

Theophylline acts by opening the lungs’ airways. As a Beta2-agonist, it relaxes muscles and reduces the response to substances that constricts the airways. However, it is only available in a long-acting form. It cannot relieve sudden breathing problems and cannot be taken right away. It takes effect within 1–2 days.

3. Can Theophylline be stopped immediately?

Stopping your Theophylline dosage suddenly may lead to your asthma symptoms returning and may cause a fatal asthma attack. You must taper the Theophylline dosage slowly until a stable therapeutic level is achieved. If you’re taking it with other drugs, reducing it by 50% would help. As a precaution, take Theophylline only as and when your doctor prescribes it.

4. Is Theophylline a bronchodilator?

Yes, Theophylline is a bronchodilator. Bronchodilators relax the muscles in the bronchial tubes (air passages) of the lungs. They increase the airflow in the bronchial tubes, relieving cough, wheezing, troubled breathing, and shortness of breath. Theophylline is a bronchodilator used to control asthma and is taken as a pill.

5. When should you take Theophylline?

Your doctor will prescribe Theophylline only if you have serious lung diseases like COPD or asthma. Theophylline is prescribed with other drugs to limit its usage. Administer Theophylline only under expert medical supervision and exactly as prescribed. Due to its intense side effects, your doctor will constantly monitor your system.

6. Can alcohol be taken occasionally with Theophylline?

Alcohol and tobacco consumption under Theophylline can cause a decrease in plasma concentration levels and reduce its effectiveness. Avoid medications containing caffeine if you’re taking Theophylline. You may also need to limit your intake of caffeine-containing beverages or food like colas, chocolates, coffee, tea, etc. Consult your doctor or medical experts to avoid any severe side effects.

7. Is Theophylline a steroid?

No, Theophylline is not a steroid. It is a xanthine drug known as 1,3-dimethylxanthine. Unlike steroids, it is not a chemical version of the body’s hormones. Theophylline is majorly used to treat lung diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma. It is not as effective in reducing inflammation as steroids.

8. Is Theophylline still prescribed?

Theophylline is one of the most widely used drugs since 1922 to treat lung diseases. It has fallen in and out of favor with doctors. Due to its narrow therapeutic window, when taking Theophylline, your body needs constant supervision by medical experts. However, many doctors still recommend Theophylline as it is inexpensive.

9. When should you take Theophylline?

Your doctor will prescribe Theophylline only if you have serious lung diseases like COPD or asthma. Theophylline is prescribed with other drugs to limit its usage. Administer Theophylline only under expert medical supervision and exactly as prescribed. Due to its intense side effects, your doctor will constantly monitor your system.

10. Is Theophylline still used for COPD?

Theophylline has been used as a bronchodilator for COPD since the 1900s. It is still recommended worldwide due to its low cost. However, today, better drugs and bronchodilators are available which have the same effects. However, Theophylline is still administered at low dosages in combination with other drugs. Your doctor will make the final decision here.

 

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