The nasal passages in your nose are lined with mucous membranes. When these mucous membranes get inflamed, you can experience a condition called rhinitis. Inflammation of these membranes can be triggered by allergens, bacteria, viruses and irritants. When rhinitis symptoms last weeks and keep returning, the condition is considered to be chronic rhinitis.
Chronic Rhinitis vs. Allergic Rhinitis
Many people who deal with rhinitis don’t know a lot about the condition. They only know that they’re experiencing unpleasant symptoms. One of the first things you should know about rhinitis is that there are two types — chronic nonallergic rhinitis and allergic rhinitis.
Allergic rhinitis, also known as hay fever, is caused by allergies, which are an overreaction of your immune system to specific allergens. If you come into contact with an allergen you are sensitive to, such as mold, dander or pollen, you experience symptoms because your body releases chemicals known as histamines to protect you. These histamines cause inflammation in the nasal and eye area by increasing blood flow in these regions.
Nonallergic rhinitis causes the same symptoms as allergic rhinitis, but it occurs in people with no allergies. This type of rhinitis is not triggered by the immune system. Instead, it’s caused by inflammation in the nasal passages. While researchers are not quite sure what can cause chronic rhinitis and this inflammation, one theory is that it occurs when the body sends the wrong signals to the nasal passage.
One way to tell which type of rhinitis you have is to get allergy tests. If the tests come back negative, you have nonallergic rhinitis.
Chronic Rhinitis Symptoms
Some of the most common symptoms of chronic rhinitis include:
- Sinus pressure.
- Irritated and itchy nose.
- Runny nose.
- Phlegm in the throat, also known as postnasal drip.
- Coughing and throat irritation.
The symptoms of allergic rhinitis are very similar to the symptoms of nonallergic rhinitis. However, allergic rhinitis symptoms are more likely to include itchy, watery eyes. They are also triggered by specific allergens, so you may notice you experience chronic allergic rhinitis symptoms only when you’re around cats or only during specific seasons when pollen counts are high.
While nonallergic rhinitis is not triggered by allergens and can occur year-round, symptoms may be triggered by weather changes, airborne irritants, odors, some chronic health conditions, some medications and specific foods.
Complications of Chronic Rhinitis
While congestion and a runny nose may not seem terrible, chronic rhinitis symptoms can seriously affect your quality of life. Constant sneezing and congestion can affect a patient’s sense of taste and smell.
It can also make it harder to breathe ease and to sleep well, which can impact overall health, mood, blood pressure, energy levels, productivity, memory, cognitive function and even safety. Chronic fatigue caused by poor breathing and poor sleep can be dangerous if you’re so tired you are not functioning.
It’s hard to overstate the dangers of poor sleep caused by rhinitis. If you are not sleeping enough or if your sleep is often interrupted, you could be at risk of a car accident, heart disease and other serious complications.
Ongoing sneezing, congestion and sinus pressure can be embarrassing, distracting and uncomfortable. Some patients also find they spend considerable time and money on temporary solutions such as over-the-counter medications and nasal strips, which don’t address the root of the issue. Some patients find they dread pollen season or specific triggers because their symptoms are so unpleasant.
Chronic rhinitis can also lead to complications like headaches, worsening asthma symptoms and frequent sinus or ear infections. If you’re breathing through your mouth because you’re congested, you can also experience dry mouth, dental problems, snoring, sleep disruptions and other complications.
Some of these complications are worse than others — but you shouldn’t have to live with any of them. That’s why it’s so important to seek treatment for rhinitis.
How to Treat Chronic Rhinitis
For allergic rhinitis, patients sometimes try over-the-counter solutions such as eye drops and antihistamine medications to relieve symptoms. A longer-term solution is immunotherapy. In immunotherapy, patients get regular allergy shots or allergy drops from a doctor. These treatments contain very small amounts of the allergen so the patient’s body can get used to it and produce less of an allergic response.
Some patients also try to reduce exposure to allergens. They may avoid cats, for example, if they are allergic, or they may use a HEPA air filter to reduce airborne allergens in the home.
For nonallergic chronic rhinitis, some patients also use over-the-counter medication as a temporary solution. Another option is working with a doctor to determine whether a certain medicine or food is a trigger. Avoiding some triggers can reduce the frequency of symptoms.
Nonallergic chronic rhinitis also has an effective, safe long-term treatment called RhinAer® which uses radiofrequency technology. This noninvasive, clinically proven treatment gently changes the posterior nasal nerve, which has mucus-producing glands. By changing the function of this nerve, an ENT can reduce or even eliminate your symptoms long-term.
There are several benefits to RhinAer®:
- It can be completed in minutes in an ENT expert’s office.
- It does not require hospital admission.
- Most patients notice improvement right away.
- This treatment targets the root cause of rhinitis, offering long-term relief.
- This treatment is minimally invasive and results in very little discomfort.
- RhinAer® lets you return to normal activities the same day.
- There are no scars or incisions involved.
- With a reduction of your symptoms, your quality of life can improve.
- You can reduce your dependence on nasal sprays and other temporary fixes.
Find Relief Today
If you have rhinitis symptoms and are ready to breathe freely, schedule an appointment with Dr. CT Nguyen. Dr. Nguyen is a certified ENT with more than 20 years of experience in Jersey Village, Houston and Cypress areas. He has provided symptom relief for hundreds of patients and can help diagnose and treat a variety of nasal and sinus conditions.
Dr. Nguyen focuses on noninvasive and minimally invasive treatment options because he wants patients to return to their normal lives with as little discomfort and risk as possible. He is always seeking out cutting-edge technology to offer superior treatment, making him one of the leading ENT specialists in Houston. If you can’t get rid of that congestion and sniffling, contact us with questions about nonallergic chronic rhinitis and treatment options.Book an Appointment