Last week in this column I touched on the topic of aspirin-sensitive asthmatics. Estimates are that 15 per cent of asthmatics are aspirin-sensitive.
Often these people also have Nasal polyps, sinusitis and problems with chronic Nasal congestion.
Aspirin-sensitive asthmatics are higher-risk than most asthmatics because they can have severe, even fatal, asthma attacks triggered by simply taking an aspirin. These folks typically are told by their doctors to avoid aspirin and other salicylates such as mouth gel Bonjela, wintergreen oil and Cartia.
But this week a pulmonologist friend told me something I had never heard, something that sounds very counterintuitive: specialists are successfully treating many of these asthmatics by giving them, of all things, aspirin. The process is called aspirin desensitisation. No one is sure exactly how it works, but they are sure that it does work.
These patients are given teensy amounts of aspirin at first, under the watchful eye of a doctor who is ready and capable of resuscitating them if need be.
One in 10 develops skin welts or abdominal pain during the treatment. Some develop severe asthma attacks.
One in 100 drops their blood pressure significantly. But most tolerate the treatment, which can take place over two days. Then they're discharged on daily long-term aspirin therapy.
In several studies of aspirin-sensitive asthmatics, desensitisation decreased the number of asthma and sinusitis attacks, lowered the amount of inhaled steroids needed, and largely eliminated the need for Nasal and sinus surgery. Remarkable.