Theophylline – Uses and side effects

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What is Theophylline?

Theophylline is a common medication that is used to treat Asthma and COPD. It is derived from methylxanthine and acts as a muscle relaxant, bronchial dilation, cardiac and central nervous system stimulant and diuretic. According to NCBI, It is naturally present in small quantities in cocoa beans and tea. It was later extracted and synthesised in the year 1895 and used as a diuretic. Later, in 1922 it was used in clinical treatments after identifying its bronchodilator effect. It is regularly used for wheezing and keeps shortness of breath under control. It works by relaxing the muscles around the airways. This will help you to open up and breathe easily. It also controls the lungs’ response to irritants. It should be used regularly to work effectively. However, it will not work suddenly to relieve sudden breathing problems. If you want quick relief, use an inhaler that is prescribed by a doctor for instant relief.

Uses of Theophylline

Theophylline is mostly used with other medicines to provide relief for nasal passage. It is commonly used to treat lung diseases, wheezing and shortness of breath. The uses are listed below.

Treat lung diseases

It is used to treat various lung diseases. It relaxes the smooth muscles near the bronchial airways and pulmonary blood vessels. Additionally, it also reduces airway responsiveness to histamine and other allergens. It works as a competitive nonselective phosphodiester inhibitor. This will increase the concentration of intracellular cAMP, which in turn activates the protein kinase A and inhibits TNF-alpha. This will decrease inflammation and innate immunity. It also acts as a nonselective adenosine receptor antagonist.


According to NCBI, It is a widely prescribed medicine for asthma. It contains immunomodulatory effects at low plasma concentrations. This will control the late asthmatic reaction, which can induce an allergic reaction. These evidences support that it inhibits cytokine synthesis and release, inflammatory cell activation and microvascular leakage. This will prevent hyperresponsiveness of the airways, which can induce airway inflammation.
COPD is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary disease. According to JAMA, oral theophylline acts as a bronchodilator to treat COPD. According to research papers, there is an increased interest in using theophylline in low concentrations, and preclinical investigations have reported that low-dose theophylline has an increased anti-inflammatory effect when compared to corticosteroids.
It is mainly used to make breathing easy and control the symptoms of wheezing. The usage of bronchodilators like theophylline will reduce the symptoms of wheezing. Also, it reduces the response to irritants. It’s usage also reduces the symptoms like coughing, chest tightness, wheezing and shortness of breath. Control symptoms of breathing problems Breathing problems and shortness of breath can indicate that a person has certain lung diseases or respiratory tract infections. It acts as an effective bronchodilator and reduces such symptoms. Theophylline usage will reduce the swollen airways and help smooth the muscles of the airways. This will help you breathe easily and reduces the severity of the symptoms. According to NCBI, it is used as an add-on therapy along with corticosteroids in people affected with COPD and asthma.

How to use Theophylline

The usage will be depend on the severity of the disease. If a person has severe shortness of breath, asthma or COPD, it will be administered with other steroids. The brief usage is discussed below.

Oral medications

Oral theophylline medication is called theophylline anhydrous. This medication can be used according to the doctor’s prescription. You can use this medication once or twice according to the symptoms. There are different types of brands, and their usage may differ. So before taking the medication, consult your doctor about the usage and read the information fully. Additionally, when taking the capsules or tablets, do not crush or chew the tablet. This can result in the release of the drugs, and taking these drugs can have no benefit to the patient. Doctor’s advice As mentioned earlier, usage of it will be depend on the severity of the symptom and the doctor’s recommendation. Do not use any herbal medicine along with theophylline. If you have any adverse effects, make sure you confess to your doctor. Depending on your input, the doctor might change the dosage. During the early stages of usage, the doctor will start the medication at a low dosage and then increase its dosage to avoid any side effects. Factors to consider The most important factor to consider is the drugs. If you are taking medications for any other illness, make sure you confess to your doctor. Sometimes, a change in diet will be required while taking theophylline for some patients. A high protein, fat or carbohydrate diet can have an effect on the medications. So, if you make any major changes to your diet, make sure you inform your doctor. Take the dosage as prescribed by your doctor. Do not try to change your dosage on your own. Keep an alert to take the medication as prescribed by your doctor. If the symptoms worsen, consult your doctor immediately. In case you miss a dosage, do not try to add it to the next dosage. Skip the missed dosage and just stay on your regular dosage schedule. Double dosing can lead to adverse effects.

Side effects of Theophylline

Theophylline can cause side effects for some people. Some of the common side effects are discussed below. Nausea It can cause nausea, which can lead to uneasiness in the stomach. In some cases, nausea can be caused when taking medication for other illnesses.


Vomiting can also be another side effect. Vomiting is the action of forcibly emptying stomach contents through the mouth. In most cases, nausea and vomiting occur together. Stomach pain When taking new medications, side effects can be common. Stomach pain or abdominal pain can be usual symptoms. If the pain persists, consult your doctor immediately. Headache Headache can be a typical side effect. This can be caused when it is used in high concentrations. Sleeplessness According to NCBI, there can be certain sleep disturbances or the quality of sleep can be affected when taking it in low doses. Restlessness Restlessness can be caused when intentional theophylline overdose occurs. This is caused due to certain physiological stressors. Increased urination It can lead to increased urination in people or children who are critically ill. This is because the diuretic effect may be potentiated by the usage of other drugs. Precautions to be followed Before using it, make sure your body is not allergic to the medication. This will be confirmed by your doctor. Talk with your doctor about your medical history or other comorbidities. This will help to reduce the risk of medication toxicity. If you have to undergo any surgery, the medication should be paused for some time. So, inform your doctor so that they can alter the dosage or pause the medication for some time. Correct dosage The dosage of any medication is important to avoid adverse effects. Do not try to alter the dosage by yourself. Consult your doctor if you have any side effects. Storage and disposal of the medication It should be stored at room temperature, away from light and moisture. Read the instruction given on the label and store accordingly. Keep the medications out of children and pets. If children consume them, it can lead to undesirable effects. Have a clean box to store your medication, and make sure you recycle the box once the medication is emptied. Store the new batch in a new container.

Conclusion – Theophylline

Theophylline can be an effective medication for asthma, COPD, and other lung diseases. The medication should be taken with a doctor’s prescription. The dosage plays a major role in the disease, so do not skip any dosage. Take your medication on time. The most important of all is not to take a medication that has surpassed the expiry date. So, when you buy the medication, make sure you check for the expiry date. FAQs

What is theophylline used for?

It is used for asthma, COPD, and other lung diseases. This medication will reduce the severity of the symptoms.   What are the side effects of Using It? Some of the common side effects are 1. Nausea, 2. Vomiting, 3. Sleeplessness, 4. Headache, 5. Abdominal pain and 6. Increased urination   Is Theophylline a steroid? It is not a steroid. It is a bronchodilator, which helps to open the blocked airways. The medication can effectively treat asthma and COPD and reduce the severity of the symptoms.   What is the correct dosage of theophylline? The dosage of the medication will be decided by the doctor. The correct dosage for each person can differ according to their symptoms. Theophylline


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