Allergic rhinitis and inflammatory airway disease: Interactions within the unified airspace

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77 Scopus citations


Background: Allergic rhinitis (AR), the most common chronic allergic condition in outpatient medicine, is associated with immense health care costs and socioeconomic consequences. AR's impact may be partly from interacting of respiratory conditions via allergic inflammation. This study was designed to review potential interactive mechanisms of AR and associated conditions and consider the relevance of a bidirectional "unified airway" respiratory inflammation model on diagnosis and treatment of inflammatory airway disease. Methods: MEDLINE was searched for pathophysiology and pathophysiological and epidemiologic links between AR and diseases of the sinuses, lungs, middle ear, and nasopharynx. Results: Allergic-related inflammatory responses or neural and systemic processes fostering inflammatory changes distant from initial allergen provocation may link AR and comorbidities. Treating AR may benefit associated respiratory tract comorbidities. Besides improving AR outcomes, treatment inhibiting eosinophil recruitment and migration, normalizing cytokine profiles, and reducing asthma-associated health care use in atopic subjects would likely ameliorate other upper airway diseases such as acute rhinosinusitis, chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS) with nasal polyposis (NP), adenoidal hypertrophy, and otitis media with effusion. Conclusion: Epidemiological concordance of AR with several airway diseases conforms to a bidirectional "unified airway" respiratory inflammation model based on anatomic and histological upper and lower airway connections. Epidemiology and current understanding of inflammatory, humoral, and neural processes make links between AR and disorders including asthma, otitis media, NP, and CRS plausible. Combining AR with associated conditions increases disease burden; worsened associated illness may accompany worsened AR. AR pharmacotherapies include antihistamines, leukotriene antagonists, intranasal corticosteroids, and immunotherapy; treatments attenuating proinflammatory responses may also benefit associated conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)249-254
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Rhinology and Allergy
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2010


  • Adenoidal hypertrophy
  • Allergic inflammation
  • Allergic rhinitis
  • Allergic rhinitis comorbidities
  • Asthma
  • Inflammatory airway disease
  • Intranasal corticosteroids
  • Nasal polyps
  • Rhinosinusitis
  • Upper and lower airway connection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Otorhinolaryngology


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