What is rhinitis?

woman with rhinitis blowing her noseRhinitis generally refers to inflammation of the soft tissue lining of the nasal cavities, called “mucosa.” When the lining of the nose becomes inflamed, it can swell to cause blockage of airflow. Additionally, the glands found in the lining of the nose may produce excess mucus, which can result in a runny nose or postnasal drip.

Rhinitis can be divided into two main categories:

  • Allergic
  • Non-allergic

Our expert rhinologists (doctors who specialize in sinus and nasal care) will work with you to determine the cause of your symptoms, categorize your condition and develop the right treatment plan for you.

Allergic rhinitis

Allergic rhinitis, often known as hay fever, is characterized by experiencing allergy-related symptoms from exposure to a variety of substances, including molds, grasses, dust, etc. Symptoms of allergic rhinitis include itchy nose or eyes, runny nose, nasal obstruction, sneezing, or watery eyes.

Patients with allergic rhinitis also often suffer from asthma. When applicable, we work in partnership with your allergist or primary care doctor to optimize your care and overall treatment.

Learn more about allergy care at Henry Ford.

Non-allergic rhinitis

Problems other than allergies can cause inflammation or swelling inside the nose, runny nose, and nasal obstruction. These include:

  • Infectious rhinitis: A typical cold or flu may result in nasal congestion and drainage. Often, these infections are caused by viruses, so treatment is geared toward the symptoms you are experiencing.
  • Irritant rhinitis: These reactions may be a response to various substances in the environment, such as dust, smoke or other pollutants.
  • Mixed rhinitis: Mixed rhinitis is very common, and is a combination of allergic and non-allergic rhinitis.
  • Rhinitis medicamentosa: Overuse of nasal decongestant sprays can cause the nose to become “addicted” to them. Treatment involves stopping the use of decongestant spray and replacing it with a nasal steroid spray until the nose loses that dependency.
  • Rhinitis of pregnancy: The exact cause of rhinitis during pregnancy is uncertain, but may be related to fluctuating hormone levels or water retention during the second and third trimesters.
  • Vasomotor rhinitis: Overactive nerve impulses to specific glands in the nose lead to overproduction of a thin mucus and a watery, runny nose. Vasomotor rhinitis often has specific triggers (for example, after eating meals, drinking alcohol, or temperature change).

Rhinitis treatment options

Depending on your type of rhinitis, treatment may include some combination of the following:

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