COPD Home > Theophylline Uses
Theophylline is used for the treatment of various conditions associated with airway spasms. Specifically, theophylline can be used to treat asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The medication has been approved for use in both adults and children. Some possible "off-label" theophylline uses include the treatment of methotrexate toxicity, sleep apnea, and severe asthma attacks that do not respond to other treatments.
An Overview of Theophylline UsesTheophylline is a prescription medication used for the treatment of airway spasms (called bronchospasms). Bronchospasms are most common in people with asthma but can also occur in people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
Asthma is a chronic disease that affects your airways, which are the tubes that carry air into and out of your lungs. If you have asthma, the inside walls of your airways are inflamed (swollen). The inflammation makes the airways very sensitive, and they tend to react strongly to things that you are allergic to or find irritating (see Asthma Triggers). When the airways react, they narrow and less air flows to your lungs. This is called bronchospasm. It causes asthma symptoms like wheezing (a whistling sound when you breathe), coughing, tightness in the chest, and trouble breathing.
While there is no asthma cure, asthma can be controlled. There are many different asthma treatments, including fast-acting "rescue medications" for treating an asthma attack and longer-acting "controller medications" used to prevent asthma attacks. Because it does not work rapidly, theophylline is a controller medication, used to help prevent asthma attacks (but not to treat an attack). Everyone who takes theophylline for asthma should also have a rescue medication (such as an albuterol inhaler) available for emergencies.
Asthma is not the only cause of bronchospasm. Theophylline can also treat bronchospasm due to other lung problems, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
The injectable form of theophylline is also approved to treat breathing problems in premature babies.