Rhinitis is inflammation and irritation of the mucous membrane lining the nose. It is a very common condition and is usually caused by viruses, bacteria, allergies and environmental factors, such as smoking. Viruses and bacteria cause an immune response that is intended to heal and protect the body. Allergies cause a release of inflammatory chemicals such as histamine that cause inflammation. These reasons cause the symptoms commonly associated with colds and allergies. But there is another type of rhinitis that is neither allergic nor infectious. It is called vasomotor rhinitis (VMR). This type of rhinitis is thought to be a result of triggers that affect the blood vessels lining the nose.
The blood vessels and glands of the nose are, in part, controlled by the autonomic nervous system. This is the part of the nervous system that we cannot control. Examples include blood pressure regulation, heart rate and sweating. It is thought that VMR may be caused by inappropriate stimulation of the autonomic nervous system nerve fibers in the nasal membranes.
Symptoms of Rhinitis
The symptoms of VMR can be similar to allergies, including clear runny nose and nasal congestion but they tend to occur at an older age. Common allergy symptoms such as sneezing and itching are seen less often. Vasomotor rhinitis is often resistant to the typical allergy over-the-counter medications. Since it is often difficult to distinguish the difference between VMR and allergic rhinitis based on the symptoms alone, allergy testing is important. Once allergies are diagnosed, they are often treated differently than VMR.
Causes of Vasomotor Rhinitis
There are many different things that trigger the symptoms of vasomotor rhinitis:
- Medications, especially blood pressure medications
- Environmental factors such as temperature, barometric pressure and bright lights
- Age-related neurological changes
- Emotions and stress
- Eating (gustatory rhinitis)
The Treatment of Vasomotor Rhinitis
- Avoidance of known environmental factors.
- Nasal saline irrigations
- Topical nasal sprays:
- Oral decongestants e.g. Sudafed™
- Investigational medications such as Capsaicin, a compound found in certain types of pepper. There is a formulation called Sinol Nasal Spray™ available without a prescription as a homeopathic remedy.
- Surgery - the most commonly performed procedures involve straightening the cartilage (septum) inside the nasal passage and reducing the size and swelling of the bones and membranes on the side wall of the nasal passage.
At Advanced Ear, Nose and Throat Care, our physicians Dr. Michael Bard, Dr. James Batti, Dr. Dov Bloch, Dr. Anthony Fama, Dr. Jay Klarsfeld, and Dr. Jeffrey Monroe treat most conditions of the nose, ear, head, neck, eyes and throat. These conditions range from silent reflux, ear infections, tonsil and adenoids, sleep disturbance, thyroid nodules and palate surgery to nasal polyps, and deviated septum sleep apnea. We are located in Fairfield County, CT in the towns of Danbury, New Milford, Norwalk, Ridgefield and Southbury.
- Dr. Michael Bard