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Rhinitis Return to Patient Education

Man with runny nose

Nasal congestion and runny nose is a common problem faced by all of us at one time or another in our lifetime.

Most commonly this is a short duration, caused by respiratory viral infections. At times, this could be a life long problem. The most common cause of constant nasal symptoms is vasomotor rhinitis, where people have nasal sensitivity to irritants. The second most common cause of nasal problems is allergies. Most allergy triggers are from protein based antigens that we commonly inhale like: animal danders, mites, pollens and mold spores. Food allergies can also cause nasal symptoms; however, this is not very common. Injuries, like nasal septal deviations and nasal perforations can cause a problem, too. In other instances people have nasal polyps contributing to their nasal problems. Using nasal decongestant sprays for long periods of time can cause a “rebound effect.” This is where congestion worsens if one tries to stop the nose spray and can cause the need for more and more nose spray to get relief.

Nasal symptoms are nothing to sneeze about!!! If not controlled, in time, it can lead to ear infections (in children), plugged up ears, sinus problems, postnasal drip, mouth breathing, orthodontic problems, watery eyes, and dark circles under the eyes. Collectively, we describe them as upper airway syndrome, starting from the nose compared to the lower airway symptoms like asthma or Bronchitis. Keeping your nasal symptoms controlled all the time, early intervention, avoiding nasal triggers, and finding a long-term solution such as allergy shots for allergies is essential for good health.

Types of Rhinitis:

  1. Allergic Rhinitis – Inflammation of the nasal passages resulting in sneezing, itching, congestion, runny nose, and drainage in the throat. This is the most common cause of nasal blockage (more common in children and young adults). Allergies are less common in older people, unless they have been present throughout their lifetime. Allergists can help identify specific allergies by skin testing and customize treatment options such as desensitization via allergy shots.
  2. Non-Allergic Rhinitis with Eosinophils – This group of people have similar symptoms as people with allergies; however, their symptoms are present yearlong. They respond well to usage of steroid nasal sprays.
  3. Vasomotor (non-allergic) Rhinitis – Patients with vasomotor rhinitis basically have very sensitive nasal linings, and any irritants such as: smoke, dust, perfumes, hair sprays, cold air, temperature changes and barometric pressure changes can aggravate their symptoms. They have chronic nasal congestion and constant post-nasal drip. Most of these patients ultimately end up with chronic sinus problems.
  4. Nasal Polyps – Nasal polyps are growths of extra tissue in the nose, and allergies can aggravate them. Nasal polyps never become cancerous. This group of patients should be on steroid nasal sprays to prevent recurrence.
  5. Mechanical Blocking Such As: Nasal Septal Deviations, Enlarged Tonsils, and Adenoids, can lead to snoring and mouth breathing.
  6. Rhinitis Medicamentosa – It is caused by excessive use of decongestant nasal sprays. This condition is most common in patients with vasomotor rhinitis.
  7. Rhinitis due to infection – Rhinitis, secondary to the common cold, usually lasts about 10-14 days and then gets better.
  8. Antihypertensive medications and oral contraceptives sometimes cause nasal stuffiness.

ALL PATIENTS WHO HAVE CHRONIC RHINITIS SHOULD BE EVALUATED FOR ANY OF THE ABOVE CONDITIONS. BY TREATING THE NASAL SYMPTOMS AGGRESSIVELY, WE CAN PREVENT CHRONIC SINUS PROBLEMS AND OTHER COMPLICATIONS AS WELL AS IMPROVING OVERALL QUALITY OF LIFE.

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