Vasomotor rhinitis (or nonallergic rhinitis) is a condition that causes the inside of the nose to become inflamed and irritated, usually leading to frequent sneezing or a chronically runny nose. Unlike allergic rhinitis, nonallergic rhinitis isn't caused by allergens in the environment, but many of the symptoms are similar to those caused by allergies. Vasomotor rhinitis can affect people at any age but is more common in adulthood. Doctors diagnose the condition after they establish that allergies are not the cause.
A person with vasomotor rhinitis will often have a blocked-up nose and may find his or her sense of smell is less acute. The nose is usually runny, and the person may experience an itchy or irritated sensation in the nasal passages. Vasomotor rhinitis also tends to cause chronic sneezing, although to a lesser extent than rhinitis caused by allergies. Occasionally, scabs may form inside the nose of a person with vasomotor rhinitis, which can cause bleeding and may release an unpleasant smell.
Vasomotor rhinitis develops when blood vessels swell inside the nose, causing a build-up of excess fluid, often caused by infections such as a cold or influenza. Other factors such as extreme weather or humidity can also trigger the condition. Irritants such as smoke, fumes, or smog can trigger some affected individuals. Nonallergic rhinitis can also develop as the result of hormonal changes in the body. For this reason, many people develop this type of rhinitis during puberty, pregnancy, or menopause.
When the doctor suspects vasomotor rhinitis, he or she will ask about symptoms and medical history to reach a diagnosis. Due to the similarity between the types of rhinitis, the physician will often order skin or blood tests to rule out allergies and may also carry out tests to exclude sinus problems as a cause of the symptoms. This may involve examining the inside of the nose using a small fiber-optic camera called an endoscope. CT scans can also help to diagnose obstructions in the sinuses.
Not all cases of vasomotor rhinitis require treatment if the symptoms are very mild. However, medications may be prescribed if the symptoms are bothersome. Saline rinses or sprays can soothe inflammation and remove irritants from inside the nasal passages. Corticosteroid nose sprays can help reduce inflammation. Although allergens do not cause this type of rhinitis, antihistamine nasal sprays may also be an effective way to treat symptoms.
Many people find over-the-counter nasal irrigation kits can help reduce inflammation from non-allergic rhinitis. Gently blowing the nose on a regular basis can also help remove irritants and reduce symptoms. Breathing in humid air can soothe the nasal passages. Using an air humidifier may help, or taking hot, steamy showers.
Although anybody can develop vasomotor rhinitis, some people are more prone than others. The condition is most prevalent in people over 20 and is more common in women due to its affiliation with hormonal changes. Using nasal decongestants for a long time can cause nonallergic rhinitis, as can over-exposure to irritants and fumes such as tobacco smoke or smog. High stress levels and certain medical conditions can also cause or exacerbate the condition.
Sometimes, vasomotor rhinitis can lead to further complications. Some people go on to develop nasal polyps or fleshy growths inside the nasal passages. If the polyps become large, they can obstruct breathing through the nose. Some people develop sinusitis, where the lining of the sinuses becomes irritated and inflamed. Nonallergic rhinitis can also cause ear infections in some people.
Some people with vasomotor rhinitis can identify the factors that trigger their symptoms. For example, they may find that exposure to cigarette smoke causes a flare-up. Avoiding known triggers is an effective way of preventing symptoms. As overuse of nasal decongestants can cause congestion to worsen over time, avoiding using these medications is another preventative measure. If stress is the suspected cause, lifestyle changes may also alleviate symptoms.
There is no proven way to prevent vasomotor rhinitis from developing in the first place. However, a recent study found regularly consuming oily fish during childhood may prevent the condition later in life. The study discovered children with a reduced risk ate a portion of oily fish more than once a week. While promising, more research is necessary to make a conclusive link between oily fish and lower incidences of nonallergic rhinitis.
People with vasomotor rhinitis should seek help if their symptoms are severe, especially if they fail to find relief from over-the-counter or self-help measures. Crusts or scabs forming inside the nose also necessitate medical attention. Some people experience unpleasant and unwanted side effects from medication for nonallergic rhinitis. These people should consult a doctor to discuss treatments that correct rhinitis without any adverse effects, as there are various options available.
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