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Theophylline is used in the treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) and asthma

How it works

Theophylline works by relaxing the muscles in the walls of the airways. This opens the airways and makes breathing easier.

Common side effects

Nausea, Headache, Insomnia, Gastric irritation, Convulsion, Palpitations, Arrhythmia, Tachycardia, Cns stimulation

Available Medicine

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Expert advice

  • Do not drive, use machinery, or do any activity that requires alertness until you are sure you can perform such activities safely.
  • If you develop a fever/flu-like symptoms while taking this medication, tell your doctor promptly. The dose of your medicine may need to be adjusted.
  • Drinking or eating foods high in caffeine, like coffee, tea, cocoa, and chocolate, may increase the side effects caused by theophylline. Avoid large amounts of these substances while you are taking theophylline.
  • Do not take theophylline if you are allergic to theophylline, similar medicines (eg, aminophylline), or xanthines (eg, caffeine).
  • Consult your doctor before taking theophylline if you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or are breast-feeding.
  • Consult your doctor  before taking theophylline if you are in the last 3 months of pregnancy.

Frequently asked questions



Is theophylline a steroid/ corticosteroid/ phosphodiesterase inhibitor/ stimulant/ antibiotic/ beta agonist/ bronchodilator/ used for COPD?
Theophylline (also available as Unicontin) is a xanthine derivative and a nonselective phosphodiesterase inhibitor. It is a stimulant; not an antibiotic or beta agonist. Theophylline is a bronchodilator and used to prevent and treat wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness caused by asthma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and other lung diseases


Does theophylline cause weight gain/ raise blood pressure/ weight loss/ insomnia/ tachycardia/ constipation/ hair loss?
Theophylline may cause increased heart rate, irregular heartbeat, insomnia. However, it is unlikely to cause weight gain, weight loss or hair loss. If any of the above side effects occur while taking theophylline, check with your doctor immediately


Does theophylline need to weaned/ tapered?
No. Theophylline need not be weaned or tapered.

Content on this page was last updated on 13 February, 2017, by Dr. Varun Gupta (MD Pharmacology)