Does early intervention with inhaled corticosteroids alter the natural history of mild persistent asthma?
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In most patients, both adults and children, who have a new diagnosis of asthma and whose symptoms are mild but persistent, treatment with inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) should be recommended as soon as the diagnosis is made. This is a cost-effective and safe treatment. Patients should be cautioned that their asthma will not be cured with short-term treatment and that their symptoms may recur and their lung function may decline again if treatment is discontinued. If patients are reluctant to use ICS daily for long periods of time, it would be reasonable to delay the onset of treatment with ICS. They could subsequently be managed with intermittent therapy with either ICS or in combination with other medications, such as long-acting beta-agonists. Initial therapy with leukotriene receptor antagonist is not likely to be as effective as initial therapy with ICS. Since treatment adjustments based on eosinophil counts in sputum can reliably predict short-term responses to corticosteroids and help identify the appropriate add-on therapy, it may be useful to use this measurement, when available, to guide intermittent therapy.
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