are rhinitis and sinusitis?
everyone knows what it feels like to have a runny, stuffed-up
nose at times. Often these symptoms are accompanied by a headache
in the area around the eyes, nose and temples. People with
allergies are especially prone to these symptoms. They are
signs of rhinitis and sinusitis, two very common medical problems.
It is estimated that up to 40 million American adults and
children have one or both of these conditions.
not life-threatening, rhinitis and sinusitis can make you
miserable. At their worst, they can keep you from functioning
normally, and may lead to life-threatening complications.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to prevent these
problems. And effective treatments exist when these symptoms
do arise. If you have allergies, you are more likely to develop
rhinitis or sinusitis than are persons without allergies.
This makes it even more important to keep your allergies under
control and to prevent rhinitis and sinusitis from occurring.
word rhinitis means simply "inflammation of the nose."
The nose normally produces a fluid called mucus. This fluid
is normally thin and clear. It helps to keep dust, debris
and allergens out of the lungs. Mucus traps particles like
dust and pollen as well as bacteria and viruses.
mucus drains down the back of the throat, but you're not aware
of it due to its relatively small amount and thin consistency.
But when the nose becomes irritated, it may produce more mucus,
which becomes thick and pale yellow. The mucus may begin to
flow from the front of the nose as well as the back. Substances
in the mucus may irritate the back of the throat and cause
coughing. This increased mucus draining down the throat is
called postnasal drip.
may be caused by irritants or allergens (substances that provoke
an allergic response). In response to these substances, the
cells of the body release histamine and other chemical
mediators. These are the substances that cause the symptoms
of allergic rhinitis-sneezing, runny nose, and itching, watery
many people, rhinitis is a temporary condition that clears
up on its own after a few days. In others, especially those
with allergies, rhinitis is a chronic problem-one that is
nearly always present or that recurs often. Rhinitis is often
classified into several types:
rhinitis. Rhinitis caused by an allergic reaction
may be either seasonal-occurring only at certain times of
the year-or perennial-occurring year round. Seasonal allergic
rhinitis is sometimes called "hay fever." It is an allergic
reaction to pollen from trees and grasses. Ragweed pollen
is another frequent culprit causing hay fever. This type of
rhinitis occurs mainly in the spring and fall, when these
pollens from trees, grasses and weeds are in the air.
allergic rhinitis is caused by allergies to substances that
are present year round. The chief causes of this type of rhinitis
are allergies to dust mites, mold, animal dander and cockroach
rhinitis. Sometimes perennial rhinitis is not caused
by allergic triggers. It may be caused by overuse of topical
nose sprays, hormonal changes, structural abnormalities of
the nose (such as septal deviation), and occasionally by medications.
Often, the cause of this type of rhinitis is not well understood,
but it is commonly present in patients with asthma. Its symptoms
are similar to those produced by allergy.
rhinitis. Perhaps the most common form of rhinitis,
infectious rhinitis is also known as the common cold. It is
caused by infection with a cold virus that takes up residence
in the mucous membranes of the nose and sinus cavities.
can be hard to tell the difference between allergies and the
common cold. There are more than a hundred strains of cold
viruses. Each tends to become widespread at certain times
of the year, which is why you may mistake a cold for a seasonal
is rhinitis treated?
cases of rhinitis go away once the source of irritation is
gone. In the meantime, decongestants can help to relieve a
stuffy nose. Be very careful, however, with the use of over-the-counter
decongestant nasal sprays. Overuse of these products can actually
make your stuffy nose worse. If used chronically and then
stopped, after the effects of these products wear off, the
tissue inside the nose and sinuses tends to become swollen.
This can prompt you to use more of the medication, after which
these tissues swell even more. A vicious cycle can begin if
you keep using the product. As your body adjusts to the chronic
medication, you need more of the medication more often to
relieve the side effects. At first you may get relief, but
in the long run the symptoms are worse. You then try to relieve
the symptoms with more medication, which in turn worsens the
side effects, and so on. All the while the underlying cause
of your stuffy nose is not being treated.
the most widely used type of medication used to control the
symptoms of rhinitis are the antihistamines. These medications
counteract the affects of histamine, the naturally occurring
chemical that causes allergy symptoms. The chief side effect
of antihistamines is drowsiness. A number of new antihistamines
have been developed that do not cause drowsiness in most people.
These medications are available with a doctor's prescription.
Cromolyn nose spray, available over the counter, may be helpful
for allergic rhinitis and causes essentially no side effects.
The most effective medications for allergic rhinitis are the
prescription corticosteroid nose sprays that reduce allergic
inflammation, usually without causing systemic side effects.
is an infection or inflammation of the sinuses. A sinus is
simply a hollow space. There are many sinuses in the body,
including four pairs inside the skull. These are called the
paranasal sinuses. They serve to lighten the skull and give
resonance to the voice.
paranasal sinuses are lined with the same kind of tissue that
lines the inside of the nose. The same things that can cause
swelling in the nose-such as allergies or infection-can also
affect the sinuses. When the tissue inside the sinuses becomes
inflamed, mucus discharge is increased. Over time, air trapped
inside the swollen sinuses can create painful pressure inside
the head. This is what is known as a "sinus headache."
cases of sinusitis are caused by infection with a virus. If
the sinuses remain blocked for a long time, though, a secondary
infection may result. This secondary infection is caused by
bacteria that are normally present within the respiratory tract.
These bacteria multiply and cause a sinus infection when they
are unable to drain out of the blocked sinuses. Frequent or
persistent sinus infections may cause chronic sinus inflammation
and symptoms. More than 50 percent of persons with moderate
to severe asthma also have chronic sinusitis.
is sinusitis treated?
a bacterial infection is present, your doctor will carefully
select an appropriate antibiotic to combat it. To reduce the
inflammation, your doctor will also prescribe a corticosteroid
nasal spray. When the inflammation decreases, the nasal passages
will be less congested. Oral decongestants may also be helpful
to reduce congestion. Topical decongestant nasal sprays are
used with great caution since they can cause the vicious cycle
of nasal stuffiness described earlier. Additional medications
may be prescribed or obtained over the counter to help relieve
the pain of sinusitis. Doctors also suggest nasal lavage with
warm salt water or breathing in hot steam through the nose for
10 to 15 minutes, 3 to 4 times a day to make you feel more comfortable.
can I prevent rhinitis and sinusitis?
best course for preventing rhinitis and sinusitis is to keep
your nasal passages as free and clear as possible. This is
particularly important if you have allergies.
you have chronic rhinitis and tend to get repeated bouts of
sinusitis, your doctor may prescribe a steroid nasal spray.
Taken every day, this medication will help to keep the nasal
and sinus passages from becoming inflamed. (For more details
on sinusitis, see the Asthma and Allergy Answer article
on, "What is Sinusitis?")
the extent possible, avoid exposure to the things that trigger
your allergies. Keep cigarette smoke out of your home and
avoid it in other places as much as possible.
important, keep your doctor informed of your symptoms. Together
you can devise a plan of action to take before a minor case
of rhinitis or sinusitis turns into a bigger health problem.
for further information.
article was printed with permission.