Rhinitis: Types and Treatment

Can non-allergic rhinitis be caused by a deviated septum?

Age, gender, ethnic background and all other ways we use to differentiate ourselves from others aside, there are certain behavioral characteristics that we all share to at least some degree. One of those is our ability to completely ignore and fail to appreciate those things that are functioning properly, like being able to breathe freely and easily. It isn’t until that function is impaired in some way that we realize how much we take it for granted. Just ask someone with ongoing or chronic rhinitis. Whether their struggle with constant congestion is the result of allergies, viral infections or something structural, like a deviated septum, the impact on quality of life can be substantial.

Rhinitis, which has two basic types, allergic rhinitis and nonallergic rhinitis, is characterized by inflammation of the nasal passages that we often refer to as having a “runny nose”. It is a very common condition, and, while not life-threatening, it can affect an individual’s productivity at work or school as well as create issues with social interactions. In addition, ongoing rhinitis can aggravate other conditions, such as asthma and otitis, which involves infections in the inner, middle or outer ear.

Allergic Rhinitis

Allergic rhinitis, or as it is more commonly called, hay fever, brings with it signs and symptoms that we normally associate with a cold. Unlike a regular cold, however, allergic rhinitis is not caused by a virus, but, rather by an allergic reaction to some sort of allergen. The list of possible allergens is long and includes things like, pollen, dust mites, mold, smoke and pet dander. Some of the most common symptoms of allergic rhinitis are:

  • Nasal congestion and the accompanying runny nose
  • Allergic conjunctivitis, which presents as watery, itchy, red eyes
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Itchy nose
  • Tickle in the roof of mouth or throat
  • Discoloration and swelling under the eyes
  • Postnasal drip
  • Overall lack of energy and fatigue

Nonallergic Rhinitis

Nonallergic rhinitis, which most often affects those 21 and older, involves chronic congestion but without an apparent cause. The symptoms are like those of allergic rhinitis but are not related to allergens. While the cause may not be attributed to an allergic reaction, there are triggers, which can include things like weather changes, odors, irritants in the atmosphere, as well as certain foods, medications and health issues. Symptoms of nonallergic rhinitis, which often come and go throughout the year, can include:

  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Postnasal drip
  • Coughing

One of the clues to help distinguish nonallergic rhinitis from allergic rhinitis is that there is not usually any evidence of itchy nose, eyes or throat.

Nonallergic rhinitis is typically diagnosed after allergic rhinitis has been ruled out. In many cases, the exact cause may not be determined. In others, there may be a direct correlation with an infection, the over-use of medications, especially decongestants, or a structural issue like a deviated septum.

Allergic reactions can be treated with medications and by identifying the particular causes and avoiding them as much as possible. When the cause is structural, like a deviated septum, the correction will require surgery. Whether the condition is related to allergens or is structural, the first step is making an appointment with a trusted healthcare professional.

If you have been diagnosed with or have questions about a deviated septum, you could not make a better decision than consulting with Dr. Geoffrey Tobias, New York City’s only plastic surgeon exclusively practicing rhinoplasty. His experience, compassion and dedication have combined to have him recognized 12 times as “best in his field” by New York Magazine.  To request a consultation, simply click here.

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