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Long-term side effects from inhaled steroids and various asthma pumps

Therunaround11 profile image

I've been on inhaled steroids high'ish dose for over 20 years and often wonder if the thin skin, broken vessels, easy bruising, poor vision etc is part of getting older (and possibly too much sun) or a side effect from years of chugging on inhaled steroids.

I feel like my voice has also taken a hammering too which again I possibly wrongly attribute to asthma inhalers but all the same would be interested to hear experiences from others who have been on long-term inhaled steroids (10 years and over).

21 Replies

Good question. I’ve no idea to be honest! Never thought about it. My skin is pretty easily damaged thinking about it and I’ve always bruised easily but I also have hypermobility which can cause the same. Yes, to the voice issues!

I’ve had asthma my whole life and I’m 40 something so have taken steroid inhalers for at least 35 years I’d guess (not sure they were around when I was very young. There was something called Intal that I seem to remember isn’t a steroid). I’ve been on high dose inhaled steroids for about 10 years. I’ll be interested to read other replies.

MaggieHP profile image
MaggieHP in reply to Artichokes

Same here! I’ve been on inhaled steroids for over thirty years and have all those symptoms, but I had some of them as a child when I wasn’t on inhaled steroids. We discovered I had hyper mobility syndrome a few years ago and we’re fairly certain I inherited it from my father. He’s not asthmatic (so has never had inhaled steroids) but has a number of the same issues regarding small veins that pop easily etc. I’m also shortsighted but that was picked up when I was a young child and so years before I was put on a steroid inhaler.

Artichokes profile image
Artichokes in reply to MaggieHP

Yes, mine's inherited hypermobility from my mum who inherited it from hers. I have a photo of my gran doing the splits well into her 80s. She was crippled with osteoarthritis and lung issues but could still do the splits! She was an amazing lady. My son doesn't seem to have inherited the bendiness but he does have the asthma unfortunately.

MaggieHP profile image
MaggieHP in reply to Artichokes

I split my inherited conditions evenly between my two sons: one inherited the Hypermobility (though it’s affected him differently to how it’s affected me - not unusual apparently), and the other inherited the asthma.

Do you mind me asking what lung issues your Gran had? I mentioned my collagen issue to a respiratory consultant once and asked about possible connections to lung issues and he was very dismissive about the possibility!

Artichokes profile image
Artichokes in reply to MaggieHP

It was actually a result of her having TB (and a lung removed) in her youth. but I do seem to remember reading somewhere that certain of the hypermobility syndromes have been linked to an increased risk of emphysema and brochiectasis. Don't quote me on that though!

MaggieHP profile image
MaggieHP in reply to Artichokes

There was some work being done on lung conditions and hypermobility syndrome a few years back but I’ve no idea whether it came to anything. I’ve often wondered whether there is a connection with certain types of asthma, in particular that which results in problems resulting from exercise. An elderly friend of mine’s husband was a retired consultant cardiologist who also happened to be a brilliant generalist (far too few of those in modern day medicine I often think). We had been discussing asthma and I asked him whether he had any opinion on the exercise induced variety (something I do suffer from as well as having the allergic version). At that time it was something of a conundrum (as I think it still is) and he admitted that, but he also wondered (and he stressed that this was purely his own thought, no evidence for it) whether it was connected to the autonomic nervous system. It’s known that hypermobility syndrome can impact the autonomic nervous system, so I’ve often wondered whether he might have been on to something there. I’ve not seen anything to suggest he was right, but it was an interesting idea.

MaggieHP profile image
MaggieHP in reply to Artichokes

And yes, there was something called Intal:-). I was on a combined version of that for nearly twenty years - IntalCo. My version was a combination of sodium chromoglycate and isoprenaline - neither of which are steroids. I was put on it either at the end of 1969 or the early 1970 and it was a life changer. I (and my family) had been put through five years of me being undiagnosed (down to the medical professionals who got it very, very wrong about asthma in the late 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s) when I was put on it.

Hi there

I've been an asthmatic all my life and I'm also 40 plus VAT. I bruise easily and my skin has changed but not sure if it is either due to the high dose steroid inhalers, the oral steroids I've been taking since 2018 or a mixture of both. My legs look like a milder version of a zebra!

My vision is tested, currently and since 2018, on a three or monthly basis, and has significantly stabilised but this is due to an unrelated asthma condition.

Have you informed your GP? I know when I started bruising, they carried out a series of blood tests. They also referred me to a vein specialist as well. Turned out I had low iron and they said my veins were fine.

I was told, since a child, when taking steroid inhalers, you should rinse your mouth with water afterwards. When I forget, my voice / throat is affected.

Maybe contact your GP to alleviate any concerns.

Good luck 😊

Good question! I too have always bruised easily and it is getting worse, now that I am over 50. The thin skin, too.

I'm on other oral medications for asthma, allergies, and blood pressure so I am not sure what is the culprit. I am also on high dose inhalers for asthma.

I developed cataract very very quickly after just three months on a high dose of inhaled steroids.

I also have to take my regular inhalers through a spacer as they have made the skin at the back of my mouth thin causing blood blisters.

MaggieHP profile image
MaggieHP in reply to Oldandgray

No sign of cataracts yet - having been on the things for thirty plus years. However, both parents have had cataracts (neither of them are/were asthmatics so never been near a steroid inhaler) so even if I get them it may well be down to genetics rather than inhalers.

Hi The bruising and thinning of the skin may be attributed to long term use of steroid . When I changed inhalers inhalers the bruising became more frequent. The steroid inhalers may affect your vision too and steroid tablets also. Do you know if your blood sugar levels are raised? I have an HbAIc test done 3 monthly at the moment as mine are raised. Regarding your voice this could be due to inhaled steroid residue if you don't gargle and wash your mouth out after taking the dose. Best to discuss these symptoms with your GP OR ASTHMA consultant. I know when I got my last hoarse voice the chest consultant sent me to ENT to have a camera put down to check it out even when I said i'd had it before and knew what to do. Take care. These are my views as I have suffered from the above, ALWAYS BEST TO CONSULT WITH THE MEDICS. X Anita

I'm on inhaled steroids, and have been since about 2006. It wasn't until 2016/17 I was told I should rinse my mouth after using the steroid inhaler and the easybreath inhaler, as they can cause mouth cancers. I now obviously rinse my mouth well and then use a mouthwash after. I was a bit miffed that after being on inhalers for so many years no-one thought to tell me I should be rinsing after using them.

MaggieHP profile image
MaggieHP in reply to Bonnie20

It is on the information sheet that comes with the inhalers I think. But I agree with you that anyone being put on a steroid inhaler for the first time should be warned that rinsing out and gargling (just rinsing out is not usually considered enough) is recommended.

Bonnie20 profile image
Bonnie20 in reply to MaggieHP

Thats interesting that rinsing isnt enough, thanks I didnt know that, I never read the leaflet that comes with the inhalers.

MaggieHP profile image
MaggieHP in reply to Bonnie20

I’ve learned that it’s a good idea to read the information leaflets that come with medication, mainly to check on whether there might be any unpleasant interactions with other medications I’m on, but sometimes there is other useful information, such as being whether some meds have to be taken with food or not, can cause drowsiness etc.

Hi, I’ve been taking steroid inhalers for about 18 years, I’m 63 now. I find that I bruise very easily, my voice gets hoarse and I’ve gradually lost some of the range in my singing voice (even though I’ve always rinsed and gargled after taking my inhaler). My skin gets damaged easily so I guess it’s quite thin and I developed cataracts very rapidly in my fifties and had operations on both eyes which are fine now.

Lynxy7 profile image
Lynxy7 in reply to Celie1

Hi Celie, I do empathize with this. I am a singer too but apart from the fact that the asthma inhibits my lung capacity somewhat, the inhalers really have messed up my throat. Also, frequent coughing has taken its toll. I used to sound like Christine McVie but now it's more like Bonnie Tyler! I had my throat checked out two years ago for damage and there were no nodules on the chords then, but it's just hoarse and breaks up because of catarrh. Oh well 🙄 Best wishes to you.

Celie1 profile image
Celie1 in reply to Lynxy7

Hi Lynxy, thank you. 😊It’s hard isn’t it when you’ve always enjoyed singing and then can’t any more. 🥲But there are worse things, I’ll just croak away and turn the music up so I can’t hear myself 😆 .

Take care x

Hi I am in my 60s now and have thin skin and bruise easily. I had bad asthma during the 1960s and had a reliever inhaler Medihaler Iso (these were thought to have caused a lot of deaths but now they think they masked severe asthma and stopped people getting emergency help) and Franol tablets. I was also put on prednisolone and for some years rarely went two or three weeks without a 5 day course. I gradually came off the prednisolone after the age of 18. I think I started on inhaled steroids in my early 30s. I have also had a steroid nasal spray since my early 20s for chronic rhinitis. My voice is often hoarse and I am constantly trying to clear my throat, I have the added problem of a hiatus hernia which an ENT consultant said is adding to my current problems. I wonder if some of the skin thinning is because many of us probably suffered with bad eczema as children and would have use a lot of steroid creams. I also have cataracts which I blame on the nasal spray.

I have become better at rinsing my mouth after inhaling my steroid inahler, Breo Ellipta. If I notice my throat and chest hurting, I will take one tablespoonful of liquid Nystatin. I swallow and leave there in my throat for a few minutes and then drink a little water. The Nystatin is for yeast overgrowth (thrush) and it works great in relieving the problem. I only have to do this around every 2-3 months. The reason I knew to ask my lung specialist for this prescription is that years ago I had systemic yeast overgrowth in my body and so found out about this wonderful drug (and as far as I know, there are no side effects, except that you must drink lots of water while taking it to flush out toxins as the yeast die off). I'm only in my second year of taking the steroid inhaler and so cannot comment on your question. Thank goodness for steroid inhalers, though, as I was near death when a specialist finally diagnosed me as having asthma (along with the lung damage I had incurred after receiving chemotherapy in 2013). Best wishes to you.

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