What Exactly Is AERD?

Aspirin Exacerbated Respiratory Disease, also known as AERD, is a chronic medical condition that can affect anyone but primarily targets females starting in their mid-thirties. This disease consists of asthma, nasal polyp formation, recurrent sinus disease, and a sensitivity to both aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). AERD aggressively targets the respiratory mucosa, often making it difficult to treat by simple measures. It often requires a diagnoses and special monitoring by an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist.

Characteristics of this clinical syndrome can also be defined by the above symptoms occurring after ingesting aspirin and NSAIDS.

Who Can Get AERD?

Anyone can fall victim to Aspirin Exacerbated Respiratory Disease, but as mentioned above, this disease occurs mostly in females. Although it can start at any age, it usually presents its ugly self around the age of 34. It's almost impossible to predict who will develop this disease, or the severity of it. Once a diagnoses is determined, it's important to maintain a relationship with your ENT doctor to keep symptoms under control.

What Are The Signs and Symptoms of AERD?

Rhinitis is usually the first symptom. Rhinitis is the irritation and swelling of the mucous membrane in the nose. More commonly referred to as a "stuffy nose". Rhinitis can also be accompanied by sneezing and a runny nose. This can then progress to the formation of nasal polyps. In more severe cases, Anosmia (lack of smell) can occur once the inflammation reaches the olfactory receptors.

The disease then advances to asthma and other complications associated with it. In rare situations, skin sensitivity, gastrointestinal problems, vomiting and even anaphylaxis can occur.

Treatment Options for AERD

Although surgical interventions are often sought, there are other options that can be implemented depending on each patient's individual case and severity. The most common treatment is Aspirin desensitization.

Aspirin desensitization consists of a daily treatment of aspirin beginning in very small doses. The goal is to gradually increase the dose of aspirin until the patient can tolerate a full dose without complications. In some cases, sinus surgery is recommended before the desensitization process.

While each individual circumstance will vary, many patients notice an improvement in as little as 4 weeks after treatment begins. Aspirin desensitization is also deemed cost effective since it reduces the need for future surgeries and other medical treatment. It is impossible to predict which patients will benefit the most from this treatment, or which ones will relapse.

Diet is also believed to play a role in providing relief from Aspirin Exacerbated Respiratory Disease. Since aspirin is converted in the body to salicylic acid, it is thought that symptoms can be alleviated by following a low-salicylate diet. Studies have also shown that individuals consuming fish oil daily had a reduction in discomfort. Be sure to consult with your ENT specialist before beginning any new regimen.

The cause of this disease is not fully understood, but certain therapies have been proven effective. Consult with your health care provider or specialist to develop a treatment that is most beneficial to you.