The three primary features of Aspirin Exacerbated Respiratory Disease (AERD) are asthma, chronic nasal polyps, and severe reactions to aspirin and other NSAIDs. A majority of patients also experience respiratory reactions to alcohol and an impaired sense of smell.
It is estimated that 7 to 10% of adults with asthma have AERD. Among those with severe asthma, studies have found that about 15% have the disease. This percentage is even higher (25%) among those with both asthma and nasal polyps. Over a million people in the United States are thought to have AERD (Samter's Triad). Unfortunately, many of these patients are not diagnosed.
AERD is an acquired condition. Symptoms do not usually develop until the third or fourth decade of life and typically develop over a period of several years. Most studies have found that the disease is slightly more common in women.
AERD inflammation progresses independently of exposure to aspirin and NSAIDs. Avoiding these drugs will not control the symptoms of the disease.
AERD is resistant to conventional treatments. Many patients are dependent on oral steroid medications to maintain quality of life. It is common for patients to undergo repeated sinus surgeries, but surgery alone is not a cure. If the disease remains untreated, the inflammation will continue to progress.
Symptoms of AERD (Samter's Triad):
Wheezing, chest congestion
Facial pain and pressure
Flushing and/or a rash
Nausea and/or abdominal cramping
Loss of sense of smell/taste
Adverse reactions to alcohol
General feeling of malaise
An Invisible Disease
Because the symptoms of AERD develop over time and are easily mistaken for separate conditions, patients sometimes go years without a diagnosis. This can be dangerous - and even life threatening, as they may not be aware of the need to avoid medications containing aspirin or NSAIDs. Find out which medications are safe to take!
Living with AERD
AERD (Samter's Triad) is a frustrating disease. There are few AERD specialists. Patients who do not live near a specialist must often rely on their own research to educate themselves (and their doctors) on the disease. One of the most important things you can do to improve your quality of life is to find a doctor who understands the disease.
How Important is Sense of Smell?
Smell tends to be an underrated sense - by people who have it. Smells alert us to dangers like gas leaks, fires, or rotten food. Our ability to smell directly impacts our ability to taste food, one of the most primary enjoyments in life. Perhaps most importantly, sense of smell is linked to parts of the brain that process emotion and memory. Loss of this sense is associated with depression. Read more about sense of smell.