Asthma is a prevalent inflammatory condition of the lower airways characterized by variable and recurring symptoms, reversible airflow obstruction, and bronchial hyperresponsiveness (BHR). Symptomatically, these patients may demonstrate wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and coughing. This disease is a substantial burden to a growing population worldwide that currently exceeds 300 million individuals. This is a condition that is frequently encountered, but often overlooked in the field of otolaryngology. In asthma, comorbid conditions are routinely present and contribute to respiratory symptoms, decreased quality of life, and poorer asthma control. It is associated with otolaryngic diseases of the upper airways including allergic rhinitis (AR) and chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS). These conditions have been linked epidemiologically and pathophysiologically. Presently, they are considered in the context of the unified airway theory, which describes the upper and lower airways as a single functional unit. Thus, it is important for otolaryngologists to understand asthma and its complex relationships to comorbid diseases, in order to provide comprehensive care to these patients. In this article, we review key elements necessary for understanding the evaluation and management of asthma and its interrelatedness to CRS.
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