[Rhinitis in adults].Acta Med Croatica 2011; 65(2):181-7AM
Rhinitis is a very common disorder caused by inflammation or irritation of nasal mucosa. Dominant symptoms are nasal obstruction; however, in some patients, runny nose, excessive sneezing or nasal itch may be the most bothersome symptoms. The most common causes of nasal inflammation are viral infections and allergic response to airborne allergens. Response to irritants may cause similar symptoms, although signs of inflammation may not always be present. Viral rhinitis is lasting up to 10 days and it is part of the common cold syndrome. In short-lived rhinitis, lasting for 7 to 10 days, sometimes it is not easy to differentiate between the potential causes of the disorder, if general symptoms of infection like fever and malaise are not present. In long-living rhinitis, it is important to differentiate between infectious, allergic, non-allergic non-infectious rhinitis, and chronic rhinosinusitis. Itch and ocular symptoms are more common in allergic rhinitis, while other symptoms like nasal obstruction, rhinorrhea and sneezing may affect patients with allergic and non-allergic rhinitis. Patients with allergic rhinitis often have symptoms after exposure to irritants, temperature and humidity changes, like patients with non-allergic rhinitis, and such exposure may sometimes cause more severe symptoms than exposure to allergens. Sensitivity to a non-specific trigger is usually called non-specific nasal hyperreactivity. Allergic rhinitis occurs due to immunoglobulin E (IgE) interaction with allergen in contact with nasal mucosa in a sensitized patient. Sensitization to certain airborne allergen, like pollens, dust, molds, animal dander, etc. usually occurs in families with allergy background, which is helpful in making diagnosis in patients who have rhinitis in a certain period of the year, or aggravation of nasal symptoms occurs in the environment typical of certain allergen. The diagnosis is clinically confirmed by proving sensitivity to certain allergen on skin prick test, and by proving specific antibody IgE in patient serum. Allergic rhinitis is categorized according to sensitivity to allergens that occur seasonally, like pollens, or to allergens that are present all year round, like house dust mite, molds and animal dander, into seasonal and perennial allergic rhinitis. Allergy to pollens causes the same mechanism of inflammation in response to allergens, which is the result of allergen binding to specific IgE antibody; however, patients with pollen allergy usually complain more of sneezing and runny nose, whereas patients with allergy to perennial allergens more often complain of obstruction, with the episodes of sneezing and runny nose occurring only when exposed to higher concentrations of allergens (house cleaning, around pets). Treatment includes avoidance of allergens, medical treatment and immunotherapy (allergy vaccines, tablets with allergens). Avoidance of allergens means reduction of environmental allergen load to the respiratory system including workplace, which is not easy to accomplish. Medical treatment is usually necessary to control symptoms, and it includes antihistamines, nasal or in tablets, and nasal glucocorticoids (steroids). Antihistamines should be second generation, which do not cause sedation, and such treatment shows more efficacy on runny nose, sneezing and nasal itch than on nasal stuffiness. Nasal steroids are more potent in improving nasal patency than antihistamines, and are at least as potent in the control of all other nasal and ocular symptoms. Nasal patency may be improved by nasal or oral decongestants, but such treatment should be reduced to as short period as possible, since after several days of using nasal decongestants rebound congestion may occur and patients will need nasal decongestants to improve nasal airways even when allergens are not around anymore.