Aspirin Sensitivity

Many people rely on aspirin and other NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) to reduce inflammation, relieve pain, and manage fevers, among a host of other uses. An allergy-like reaction to aspirin and other NSAIDs including ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve) can immediately halt usage of these beneficial drugs. This reaction results in an aspirin sensitivity diagnosis.

Symptoms

If you experience any of the following symptoms after taking aspirin or other NSAIDs, you may have aspirin sensitivity:

Aspirin sensitivity is frequently associated with chronic asthma and sinus congestion with recurrent nasal polyps. This combination of issues is called aspirin-exacerbated respiratory disease (AERD), aspirin-sensitive asthma, or Samter’s Triad. The chronic condition typically develops in adulthood (most often during the 30s) and becomes more serious over time. Loss of smell and frequent sinus infections are common.

Causes

No cause of aspirin sensitivity or AERD has been identified.

Diagnosis & Treatment Options

The specialists at Greater Austin Allergy can often make a clinical diagnosis of aspirin sensitivity and AERD based on a thorough medical history evaluation and exam. If the initial exam and consultation do not result in a clear answer, an oral challenge test may shed light on the potential diagnosis. It is crucial that this test only be performed in the office under a certified allergist’s supervision due to the potential for adverse reactions. During this test, a patient receives increased doses of aspirin to determine if it causes symptoms.

Avoidance of aspirin and NSAIDs is the front-line treatment for aspirin sensitivity. However, these drugs have so many benefits that aspirin desensitization may be recommended to develop tolerance to them. Just like the oral challenge, aspirin desensitization must take place under a physician’s supervision. The patient will consume low levels of aspirin, with the dosage gradually increasing until they can tolerate a therapeutic dose. One key to this plan is, they will then have to take daily aspirin for the rest of their lives. If they stop, the desensitization process must begin again.

Treating AERD often requires medications for the nasal and asthma symptoms, as well as nasal polyp surgery. Aspirin desensitization followed by the required daily aspirin dose has been found to improve asthma symptoms and decrease the formation of nasal polyps.

Greater Austin Allergy’s physicians will guide you through the diagnosis and treatment process, including a personalized treatment plan.

Aspirin Sensitivity Facts