Rhinitis is inflammation and swelling of the mucous membrane of the nose, which causes a runny nose and stuffiness. “Vaso” means blood vessels and “motor” refers to the nerves. Vasomotor rhinitis (VMR) is chronic rhinitis, characterised by intermittent episodes of sneezing, watery nasal drainage (rhinorrhea), and blood vessel congestion of the nasal mucus membranes. It is sometimes referred to as idiopathic non-allergic rhinitis.

What causes VMR?

People with VMR have a hypersensitive response to stimuli like a dry atmosphere, air pollutants, spicy foods, alcohol, strong emotions, and some medications. Any particulate matter in the air, including pollens, dust, mould, or animal dander can bother people with VMR, even if they are not actually allergic to these things. VMR seems to be an exaggeration of the normal nasal response to irritation, occurring at levels of exposure which don’t bother most people.

It’s important to understand that VMR is a non-specific response to virtually any change or impurity in the air, as opposed to allergic rhinitis (or hay fever), which involves a response to a specific protein in pollen, dust, mould, or animal dander.

What are the symptoms?

This depends, because people with VMR fall into two general groups. There are “runners”, who have “wet” rhinorrhea, and “dry” sufferers, with symptoms of nasal congestion and blockage to airflow, but minimal runny nose.

How is VMR diagnosed?

Your doctor will take a careful history and examine your nose and throat closely. Allergy testing should also be done to make sure there is no allergic basis for some of the symptoms, since this would affect how it should be treated. your symptoms. Antihistamines seem to help a few patients whose main symptom is runny nose, but usually only when the rhinitis is mixed vasomotor and allergic. Univent (ipratromium bromide) nasal spray is effective in patients who have runny nose as their main symptom.

For congestion, you can opt for an over-the-counter decongestant. Tablets containing phenylephrine are an option, but should not be used if you have heart problems; high blood pressure; diabetes; prostate problems; glaucoma; an overactive thyroid gland; are taking a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (for depression); are pregnant or breastfeeding; or are under six years old. Oxymetazoline (Drixine) and xylometazoline (Otrivin) nasal sprays are another option, but can only be used for three days continuously, otherwise they cause a condition known as ‘rebound congestion’.

Corticosteroid nasal sprays help with congestion, runny nose, and sneezing. While they do not start working immediately, when they do, they seem to control all the symptoms. Some adverse effects can be nasal dryness, smell and taste disturbances, irritation of the nose and throat, or nosebleeds.

Always speak to your doctor, pharmacist or nurse before taking any medicines, to determine whether it is safe and appropriate for you, or the person you are buying it for, to use. In very rare cases, where the VMR doesn’t respond to medication, surgery can be considered.

How many people have VMR?

Up to 10% of the population suffer from VMR. Most VMR patients seem to be older than the typical patients with hay fever.

Are there other conditions that cause similar symptoms?

Yes – nasal polyps, previous trauma to the nose, and structural abnormalities in the nose can cause similar symptoms, so it’s important to get a proper diagnosis from a medical professional.

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