RHINITIS DEFINITIONRhinitis is a condition that gives people a chronic runny or stuffy nose throughout the year. It is also called non-allergic rhinitis, because the drip and stuffiness are not caused by hay fever or other allergic causes. Another name for it is vasomotor rhinitis, which refers to the extreme response of the nasal lining to irritations. Rhinitis causes the lining of the nose to swell when the blood vessels expand. This swelling results in a congested and dripping nose. Rhinitis affects both children and adults. It is not a very harmful condition, but most people do not enjoy the feeling of being congested or having a runny nose all the time. This condition can affect people’s quality of life and be extremely irritating.
RHINITIS SYMPTOMSThe symptoms of rhinitis are very straightforward, but you may not realize at first that that is what you have. You may assume you have a cold or allergies, yet treatments for those conditions don’t work in yours. The symptoms include stuffy nose, runny nose, and phlegm in the throat, known as post-nasal drip. One difference between rhinitis and allergies is that rhinitis does not usually cause other symptoms, such as itchy eyes, nose, or throat. If you have those symptoms, chances are you have allergies rather than rhinitis.
RHINITIS CAUSESNonallergic rhinitis happens when the blood vessels in your nose dilate. This expansion fills the nasal lining with blood and fluid. There are some factors besides allergies which might cause people to have runny or stuffy noses. Infections often cause inflammation of the nasal lining. So, a cold or the flu might trigger an attack of rhinitis, though it will seem as though all the symptoms are part of the same illness. This condition usually resolves itself in a few weeks, but sometimes can trigger a much longer lasting attack of rhinitis. Environmental irritants, such as pollution, mold, perfumes, or chemical fumes, can provoke a runny or stuffy nose. Rhinitis is often provoked when the weather changes, either in temperature or in humidity. Emotional or physical stress and activity, such as running, walking fast, playing sports, or having sex can also bring on an attack of rhinitis. Hormonal changes, such as those that result from pregnancy, menstruation, hypothyroidism, or the use of hormonal contraceptives also can cause it. Some foods and beverages cause your nose to run, too, such as spicy or hot foods and alcoholic beverages.
Certain medications can also cause nonallergic rhinitis. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which include aspirin and ibuprofen, and blood pressure medications, such as beta-blockers, can cause it, as can sedatives, antidepressants, and treatments for erectile dysfunction. In addition, the prolonged use of other medications such as nasal drops or nose sprays can irritate the lining of your nose, making them red and inflamed. After using these products for a while, rhinitis symptoms return even more severe than ever. This is known as rebound congestion.
RHINITIS RISK FACTORSome people are at higher risk of developing rhinitis than others. For example, if you are regularly exposed to environmental irritants such as smog, cigarette smoke, dust, or exhaust fumes, you are more likely to react with an attack of rhinitis. If you have tried to treat your runny nose or congestion with nasal drops or sprays, you may experience rebound congestion, which will probably be worse than it was when it started. In addition, girls and women are at higher risk for rhinitis because they are more susceptible to the hormonal changes that can cause runny or stuffy noses, which often get worse during menstrual periods and during pregnancy. Even women who don’t normally have problems with rhinitis find that these hormonal changes can cause them.
RHINITIS TREATMENTIf you have symptoms of nonallergic rhinitis, and you have not been able to treat it successfully through over the counter medications, your doctor may be able to help you with a treatment plan. You should also see your doctor if you have severe side-effects from the use of over the counter medications, since they may be able to prescribe something else.
A doctor can diagnose your condition as rhinitis once they have ruled out any allergies. Since the symptoms are very much the same, the doctor has to make sure he or she is treating the correct disorder. The only way to do that is to test for allergies and eventually rule them out. Doctors can test for allergies by doing a skin test, in which your skin is exposed to several different allergens to discern whether you have an allergic reaction. You may also take a blood test, which can measure your immune system’s response to allergens by measuring the amount of antibodies your blood has produced. You may also suffer from nasal polyps; if your doctor suspects this, you may have to have a CT scan of the sinuses.
RHINITIS SIDE EFFECTSComplications of rhinitis might include nasal polyps, which are soft, benign growths on the lining of your nose or sinuses. Large polyps can block the airflow through your nose and make it difficult to breathe. Another complication is sinusitis. Your nose and sinuses will be more susceptible to infection when the lining is irritated and inflamed. And finally, you may be more susceptible to middle ear infections due to increased fluid and nasal congestion.
Once rhinitis is diagnosed, it can be treated in different ways depending on how severe the symptoms are. Oral decongestants are available either by prescription or over the counter. They can narrow the blood vessels and reduce the congestion in your nose. Saline-based nasal sprays can also flush out irritants and help thin the mucus inside the nose. Antihistamine nasal sprays are meant for those with allergies, but sometimes can ease the symptoms of nonallergic rhinitis. The prescription medication Atrovent, which comes in inhaler form or in nasal spray, can be helpful for a runny nose, and corticosteroid sprays may help reduce inflammation. In extreme cases, surgery may be an option for those with physiological conditions leading to their rhinitis, such as a deviated nasal septum or nasal polyps.