Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Feb 4, 2022.
Available Dosage Forms:
Therapeutic Class: Bronchodilator
Chemical Class: Methylxanthine
Uses for theophylline
Theophylline injection is used together with other medicines to treat the acute symptoms of asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, and other lung diseases in a hospital setting.
Theophylline belongs to a group of medicines known as bronchodilators. Bronchodilators are medicines that relax the muscles in the bronchial tubes (air passages) of the lungs. They relieve cough, wheezing, shortness of breath, and troubled breathing by increasing the flow of air through the bronchial tubes.
Theophylline is available only with your doctor's prescription.
Before using theophylline
In deciding to use a medicine, the risks of taking the medicine must be weighed against the good it will do. This is a decision you and your doctor will make. For theophylline, the following should be considered:
Tell your doctor if you have ever had any unusual or allergic reaction to theophylline or any other medicines. Also tell your health care professional if you have any other types of allergies, such as to foods, dyes, preservatives, or animals. For non-prescription products, read the label or package ingredients carefully.
Appropriate studies performed to date have not demonstrated pediatric-specific problems that would limit the usefulness of theophylline injection in children. However, children younger than 1 year of age are more likely to have serious side effects, which may require caution and an adjustment in the dose for patients receiving theophylline injection.
Appropriate studies performed to date have not demonstrated geriatric-specific problems that would limit the usefulness of theophylline injection in the elderly. However, elderly patients may be more sensitive to the effects of theophylline injection than younger adults, which may require caution and an adjustment in the dose for patients receiving theophylline injection.
Studies in women suggest that this medication poses minimal risk to the infant when used during breastfeeding.
Interactions with medicines
Although certain medicines should not be used together at all, in other cases two different medicines may be used together even if an interaction might occur. In these cases, your doctor may want to change the dose, or other precautions may be necessary. When you are receiving theophylline, it is especially important that your healthcare professional know if you are taking any of the medicines listed below. The following interactions have been selected on the basis of their potential significance and are not necessarily all-inclusive.
Using theophylline with any of the following medicines is not recommended. Your doctor may decide not to treat you with this medication or change some of the other medicines you take.
Using theophylline with any of the following medicines is usually not recommended, but may be required in some cases. If both medicines are prescribed together, your doctor may change the dose or how often you use one or both of the medicines.
- Ethinyl Estradiol
- Peginterferon Alfa-2a
- Peginterferon Alfa-2b
Using theophylline with any of the following medicines may cause an increased risk of certain side effects, but using both drugs may be the best treatment for you. If both medicines are prescribed together, your doctor may change the dose or how often you use one or both of the medicines.
- Interferon Alfa-2a
- St John's Wort
Interactions with food/tobacco/alcohol
Certain medicines should not be used at or around the time of eating food or eating certain types of food since interactions may occur. Using alcohol or tobacco with certain medicines may also cause interactions to occur. The following interactions have been selected on the basis of their potential significance and are not necessarily all-inclusive.
Using theophylline with any of the following is usually not recommended, but may be unavoidable in some cases. If used together, your doctor may change the dose or how often you use theophylline, or give you special instructions about the use of food, alcohol, or tobacco.
Using theophylline with any of the following may cause an increased risk of certain side effects but may be unavoidable in some cases. If used together, your doctor may change the dose or how often you use theophylline, or give you special instructions about the use of food, alcohol, or tobacco.
Other medical problems
The presence of other medical problems may affect the use of theophylline. Make sure you tell your doctor if you have any other medical problems, especially:
- Congestive heart failure or
- Cor pulmonale (heart condition) or
- Fever of 102 degrees F or higher for 24 hours or more or
- Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) or
- Infection, severe (e.g., sepsis) or
- Kidney disease in infants younger than 3 months of age or
- Liver disease (e.g., cirrhosis, hepatitis) or
- Pulmonary edema (lung condition) or
- Shock (serious condition with very little blood flow in the body)—Use with caution. The effects may be increased because of slower removal of the medicine from the body.
- Heart rhythm problems (e.g., arrhythmia) or
- Seizures, or history of or
- Stomach ulcer—Use with caution. May make these conditions worse.
Proper use of theophylline
A nurse or other trained health professional will give you theophylline in a hospital. Theophylline is given through a needle placed in one of your veins.
Precautions while using theophylline
It is very important that your doctor check the progress of you or your child while you receive theophylline. Blood tests may be needed to check for unwanted effects.
A change in your usual behavior or physical well-being may affect the way theophylline works in your body. Tell your doctor if you or your child:
- Have had a fever of 102 degrees F or higher for at least 24 hours or more.
- Have started or stopped smoking tobacco or marijuana in the last few weeks.
- Have started or stopped taking another medicine in the last few weeks.
- Have changed your diet in the last few weeks.
Check with your doctor right away if you or your child have the following symptoms after using theophylline: nausea or vomiting that continues, headaches, trouble with sleeping, seizures, or irregular heartbeats.
Before you have any medical tests, tell the medical doctor in charge that you or your child are using theophylline. The results of some tests may be affected by theophylline.
Theophylline may add to the central nervous system (CNS) stimulant effects of caffeine-containing foods or beverages, such as chocolate, cocoa, tea, coffee, and cola drinks. Avoid eating or drinking large amounts of these foods or beverages while using theophylline. If you have questions about this, check with your doctor.
Do not take other medicines unless they have been discussed with your doctor. This includes prescription or nonprescription (over-the-counter [OTC]) medicines for appetite control, asthma, colds, cough, hay fever, or sinus problems, and herbal or vitamin supplements.
Theophylline side effects
Along with its needed effects, a medicine may cause some unwanted effects. Although not all of these side effects may occur, if they do occur they may need medical attention.
Check with your doctor or nurse immediately if any of the following side effects occur:
Incidence not known
- Blurred vision
- chest pain or discomfort
- fast, slow, or irregular heartbeat
- increase in urine volume
- infection at the injection site
- pain or redness at the site of injection
- pale skin at the site of injection
- persistent vomiting
- pounding or rapid pulse
- rapid breathing
- shortness of breath
- swelling of the lower legs or arms
- tenderness, pain, swelling, warmth, skin discoloration, and prominent superficial veins over the affected area
- weight gain
Get emergency help immediately if any of the following symptoms of overdose occur:
Symptoms of overdose
- Abdominal or stomach pain
- confusion about identity, place, and time
- dark-colored urine
- decrease in frequency of urination
- decreased urine
- difficulty in passing urine (dribbling)
- dizziness, faintness, or lightheadedness when getting up suddenly from a lying or sitting position
- dry mouth
- fast, pounding, or irregular heartbeat or pulse
- increased thirst
- irregular heartbeat
- loss of appetite
- mood changes
- muscle cramps or spasms
- muscle pain or stiffness
- nausea or vomiting
- numbness or tingling in the hands, feet, or lips
- pain or discomfort in the arms, jaw, back, or neck
- painful urination
- shakiness in the legs, arms, hands, or feet
- shortness of breath
- unusual tiredness or weakness
- vomiting of blood or material that looks like coffee grounds
Some side effects may occur that usually do not need medical attention. These side effects may go away during treatment as your body adjusts to the medicine. Also, your health care professional may be able to tell you about ways to prevent or reduce some of these side effects. Check with your health care professional if any of the following side effects continue or are bothersome or if you have any questions about them:
Incidence not known
- trouble sleeping
- unable to sleep
Other side effects not listed may also occur in some patients. If you notice any other effects, check with your healthcare professional.
Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.
More about theophylline
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- Drug interactions
- Dosage information
- During pregnancy or Breastfeeding
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- Drug class: methylxanthines
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- Theophylline (Advanced Reading)
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- Theophylline Extended-Release Capsules
- Theophylline Injection
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