Background Allergic rhinitis (AR) and asthma often coexist and may represent two manifestations of the same disease recently named combined AR and asthma syndrome (CARAS).
Aim To review the common pathophysiology of combined AR and asthma and to investigate the efficacy of intranasal corticosteroids (INCS).
Methods Medline was used to identify articles relevant to mechanisms. A Cochrane systematic review was performed to assess the efficacy of INCS in CARAS.
Results There is cross-talk, evidence of a common inflammatory response in both sites, linked by a systemic component. The efficacy of anti-inflammatory INCS on asthma outcomes was assessed in a systematic review of 12 randomized controlled trials involving 425 subjects. After INCS there were non-significant trends for improvement in asthma symptom score (standardized mean difference (SMD) of 0.61; P=0.07), forced expiratory volume in 1 s (SMD of 0.31; P=0.08), and morning peak expiratory flow (weighted mean difference of 36.51; P=0.06). There was no impact on methacholine airways responsiveness (SMD of −0.20; P=0.4). The review identified two promising new treatment options in united airway disease such as INCS as monotherapy in rhinitis and mild asthma, and a combined intranasal and intrabronchial corticosteroid (IBCS) deposition technique.
Conclusion Common mucosal inflammatory responses occur in CARAS. This systematic review shows trends for a benefit of INCS in CARAS, but recognizes that more research is needed. At this stage, the current best practice is to treat asthma conventionally with IBCS with or without β2-agonist and to add INCS to improve specific rhinitis symptoms.