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Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2007 May;136(5 Suppl):S75-106.

Asthma and the unified airway.

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Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, USA.


Inflammatory processes of the upper and lower airway commonly co-exist. Patients with upper respiratory illnesses such as allergic rhinitis and acute and chronic rhinosinusitis often present to both otolaryngologists and primary care physicians for treatment of their symptoms of nasal and sinus disease. These patients often have concurrent lower respiratory illnesses such as asthma that may be contributing to their overall symptoms and quality of life. Unfortunately, asthma frequently remains undiagnosed in this population. It was the objective of this paper to examine the relationship between upper respiratory illnesses such as rhinitis and rhinosinusitis and lower respiratory illnesses such as asthma, and to provide a framework for primary care and specialty physicians to approach these illnesses as a spectrum of inflammatory disease. The present manuscript was developed by a multidisciplinary workgroup sponsored by the American Academy of Otolaryngic Allergy. Health care providers in various specialties contributed to the manuscript through preparation of written materials and through participation in a panel discussion held in August 2006. Each author was tasked with reviewing a specific content area and preparing a written summary for inclusion in this final document. Respiratory inflammation commonly affects both the upper and lower respiratory tracts, often concurrently. Physicians who are treating patients with symptoms of allergic rhinitis and rhinosinusitis must be vigilant to the presence of asthma among these patients. Appropriate diagnostic methods should be used to identify individuals with concurrent respiratory illnesses, and comprehensive treatment should be instituted to reduce symptoms and improve quality of life.

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