Vasomotor Rhinitis

Written by Darla Burke | Published on July 5, 2012
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD

What Is Vasomotor Rhinitis?

Rhinitis is a term that is used to describe an inflammation of the membranes inside of the nose. This inflammation can be caused by a number of different irritants or allergens. However, there are times when there is no specific cause for the inflammation. This condition is known as vasomotor rhinitis or:

  • nonallergic rhinitis
  • idiopathic rhinitis
  • rhinitis-nonallergic

Vasomotor rhinitis is not life-threatening. For those affected with the condition, the symptoms can be annoying, but are not serious.

What Causes Vasomotor Rhinitis?

Vasomotor rhinitis occurs when the blood vessels inside the nose expand (dilate). Dilation of the vessels in the nose produces swelling and can cause congestion. Mucus may also drain from the nose.

Unfortunately, doctors have not been able to pinpoint what causes the blood vessels in the nose to swell. Some common triggers that may produce this reaction include

  • irritants in the environment such as perfumes, odors, smog, or secondhand smoke
  • changes in the weather, particularly dry weather
  • viral infections such as those associated with a cold or flu
  • hot or spicy foods or drinks
  • medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen

What Are the Symptoms of Vasomotor Rhinitis?

Symptoms of vasomotor rhinitis may come and go throughout the year. The symptoms may last several weeks or may be constant. Common symptoms of the condition include:

  • stuffy nose
  • runny nose
  • mucus in the throat (postnasal drip)

If you develop vasomotor rhinitis you typically will not have the following symptoms:

  • itchy nose
  • itchy or watery eyes
  • scratchy throat

These symptoms are common with allergic rhinitis, which is caused by an allergy.

How is Vasomotor Rhinitis Diagnosed?

Vasomotor rhinitis is diagnosed by your doctor after other causes of your symptoms have been ruled out.

If you have symptoms of vasomotor rhinitis, your doctor will first perform different tests to see if your rhinitis is caused by an allergy or other health problem. In order to determine if you have an allergy, your doctor may order a skin test to identify any allergies that you may have or a blood test to see if your immune system is functioning normally.

Your doctor may also order tests to see if you have any sinus problems that may be causing your rhinitis. Tests may include a nasal endoscope to look inside of your nose or a CT scan of the sinuses.

If your doctor cannot find any underlying cause for your rhinitis, he or she will then make a diagnosis of vasomotor rhinitis.

How Is Vasomotor Rhinitis Treated?

If you are diagnosed with vasomotor rhinitis, there are a number of home care remedies that you can use to treat the condition. Examples include:

  • over-the-counter saline nasal sprays
  • over-the-counter decongestants such as pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine
  • over-the-counter antihistamines such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl), clemastine, or loratadine (Claritin)

If your symptoms are severe or if you experience side effects from these over-the-counter medications, your doctor may be able to prescribe other medications to help control your symptoms. Prescription medications that can be used to treat vasomotor rhinitis include:

  • corticosteroid nasal sprays such as fluticasone or mometasone
  • antihistamine nasal sprays such as azelastine or olopatadine hydrochloride
  • antidrip anticholinergic nasal sprays such as ipratropium

In rare cases, your doctor may recommend surgical options for you to treat your symptoms. Surgical options may be helpful if you have an underlying health problem that intensifies your symptoms. Examples include nasal polyps or a deviated septum.

What is the Outlook for a Patient With Vasomotor Rhinitis?

If you develop vasomotor rhinitis, your prognosis will depend on the severity of your symptoms. Treatment with over-the-counter or prescription medication may help reduce or eliminate your symptoms. Correcting underlying health conditions such as a deviated septum may also help reduce your symptoms and improve your prognosis.

Tips to Prevent Flare Ups

Prevention of vasomotor rhinitis may be difficult if you do not know what is causing your symptoms. If you are able to identify what causes your symptoms it may be possible to avoid these triggers, such as perfumes, secondhand smoke, dust, etc. Avoiding these triggers will reduce your symptoms and discomfort.

If your symptoms are severe, you should contact your doctor. Your doctor may be able to help you find a treatment that works. Your doctor can also diagnose health problems that may be making your symptoms worse. With the right treatment you may be able to prevent, reduce, or eliminate your symptoms.

You should also avoid overusing nasal decongestants. Even though these medications can provide short-term relief for your symptoms, using them for more than three or four days can worsen your symptoms.

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