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Albuterol (also called salbutamol outside of the United States) is a type of medicine. It is a bronchodilator. This means it makes the bronchi - the tubes that bring oxygen to the lungs - get wider. This makes it easier for oxygen to get to the lungs. From the lungs, oxygen goes into the blood and travels to the rest of the body. In medicine, albuterol is called a β2 adrenergic receptor agonist.
Other names for albuterol
There are many different brand names for albuterol. The most common are Accuneb, ProAir, Proventil, and Ventolin.
What albuterol treats
Sometimes, diseases like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) make the bronchi get narrower. This makes it harder for oxygen to get to the lungs. This can cause trouble breathing or even respiratory failure, which means the body is not getting enough oxygen to survive.
Every part of the body needs oxygen to live. Without enough oxygen, parts of the body - like the brain - will start to die. Finally, a person's heart can stop if they do not get enough oxygen for a long enough time.
Albuterol can often keep these things from happening. Often, people with diseases like asthma or COPD are prescribed albuterol inhalers. As soon as they start having trouble breathing, they can use the inhaler to breathe albuterol right into their lungs. The albuterol will stop the bronchi from getting narrower, and will make them wider again. This makes it possible for normal amounts of oxygen to get to the lungs.
Albuterol has some common side effects. They include:
Albuterol can also cause tachycardia (fast heart rate) and palpitations (feeling like the heart is pounding or fluttering). Because of this, albuterol is used carefully in people who have heart problems.
Albuterol is also used by some for weight loss. Albuterol can cause rapid heartbeat or tachycardia. It causes blood pressure to rise and causes irregular heartbeats called cardiac arrhythmia. Bodybuilders sometimes use albuterol before contests to lose body fat and retain muscle. Abuterol is not approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for weight loss. Any abuse of Albuterol by taking too much can lead to a stroke or heart attack.
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- James T.C. Li, MD, Ph.D. (October 15, 2014). "Albuterol side effects: Can I limit them?". Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/asthma-attack/expert-answers/albuterol-side-effects/faq-20058088. Retrieved December 27, 2015.
- Cydney Walker (16 August 2013). "Albuterol for Weight Loss". LiveStrong. http://www.livestrong.com/article/381131-albuterol-for-weight-loss/. Retrieved 24 December 2015.
- "Albuterol Abuse". eMedTV. http://asthma.emedtv.com/albuterol/albuterol-abuse.html. Retrieved 24 December 2015.