Inhaled corticosteroid medications such as beclomethasone or fluticasone are prescribed to calm lung inflammation. Such drugs make it easier for people with asthma or COPD to breathe. Doctors have felt more comfortable prescribing inhaled steroids rather than pills like prednisone. Presumably, they believe that inhaled drugs produce fewer systemic side effects.
Do Inhaled Steroids Have Long-Term Consequences?
A large Dutch study now throws that assumption into question. The investigators reviewed the records of 140,879 people participating in the Lifelines Study Cohort.
Approximately 10 percent of this group held a prescription for a corticosteroid drug in some form-topical, inhaled or systemic. Further analysis showed that women using inhaled steroids were 40 percent more likely to have metabolic syndrome. People with high body mass index (BMI), blood pressure and sugar and fats in the bloodstream have metabolic syndrome, or MetS.
What Is the Problem with Metabolic Syndrome?
MetS is a risk factor for a number of other chronic diseases. Obesity, fatty liver disease and even neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer disease or Parkinsonism have all been linked to metabolic syndrome (Motamedi et al, Metabolic Brain Disease, March 30, 2017).
This is an association. As such, it does not prove that inhaled corticosteroids cause MetS. But since this cluster of risk factors increases the danger of diabetes and heart disease, doctors and patients may want to monitor inhaled corticosteroid use more closely.