A Swedish study finds that nasal congestion can be a sign of severe asthma and that severe asthma appears to be more common than previously thought. The findings are published in the journal Respiratory Research.

The population study included 30,000 randomly selected participants from the west of Sweden and asked questions about different aspects of health. According to the researchers, the study marks the first time the prevalence of severe asthma has been estimated in a population study. The findings show that approximately 2% of the population in west Sweden demonstrate signs of severe asthma.

The researchers also found a link between severe asthma and more pronounced nasal symptoms, such as chronic rhinosinusitis, or nasal congestion and a runny nose that lasted for a long period of time. They recommend that patients who report nasal complaints, perhaps together with minor symptoms from the lower respiratory tract, such as wheezing, shortness of breath during physical effort, and night-time awakings because of breathing problems, should be investigated for asthma.

“These findings suggest that some parts of the immune system that are activated in connection with chronic nasal problems might be linked to severe asthma, and this insight could lead to new forms of treatment in the long run,” says Jan Lötvall, study author and professor at the Sahlgrenska Academy’s Krefting Research Centre. “Effective treatment for troublesome nasal and sinus complaints could, in theory, reduce the risk of severe asthma, though this is something that needs further research.”

Source: Respiratory Research