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Keywords:

  • asthma;
  • eosinophilia;
  • lung;
  • nose;
  • pathology;
  • perennial rhinitis;
  • polyposis

Perennial rhinitis and asthma are clinical syndromes representing a range of overlapping pathologies; accurate classification should therefore precede any comparison. Although the sinonasal cavities, trachea and bronchi have a common respiratory mucosa, there are also anatomical differences. For example, the nose has a capacitance vessel network and the lower airways possess smooth muscle, both of which are responsive to neurohumoral influences. The prevalence of rhinitis and asthma has increased over the last three decades. Rhinitis occurs in around 75% of allergic asthmatics while 20% of perennial allergic rhinitics develop asthma. Eosinophils, and their associated proteins and cytokines, may play a central role in both perennial rhinitis and asthma with and without atopy. The characteristic pathology of asthma can be summarized as a chronic, desquamating, eosinophilic bronchitis. Non-allergic rhinitis with eosinophilia is recognized, but without consistent evidence of epithelial damage. Eosinophils are also present in rhinosinusitis with polyposis, particularly in patients with aspirin sensitivity, in whom asthma also often occurs. Increased mast cell activation and mediator release is evident in both perennial rhinitis and asthma following allergen challenge. The importance of mast cells in non-atopic asthma and polyposis is also recognized. Adhesion molecules may also be upregulated, with an increased number and activation of Th, lymphocytes. However, allergen-resultant T-cell activation may be less marked in the nose than in the lung. Autonomic imbalance also plays a role in both conditions via changes in neural tone to effector tissues, release of neuropeptides, and interplay with cellular recruitment. Pharmacological manipulation of rhinitis and asthma also illustrates the pathological similarities and differences.