It may come as no surprise that there’s a close relationship between allergic rhinitis and sinus issues, namely sinusitis (also known sinus infections). But how exactly do the two conditions go hand in hand? In this blog, the otolaryngologists at DFW Sinus Select will break down the connection between the two in simple terms. This post will explain both how the sinuses work, and how allergic rhinitis impacts the sinuses.
A Simple Explanation of the Sinuses
The sinuses are air-filled spaces behind the bones of the upper face. They are covered with a mucous layer and cells that contain little hairs on their surfaces called cilia. Cilia help trap and push out bacteria and pollutants, preventing them from reaching the lungs.
Each sinus has an opening that allows mucus to drain. Anything that obstructs the normal flow may cause a buildup of mucus in the sinuses. This buildup can lead to inflammation of the sinus lining, resulting in an uncomfortable condition called sinusitis.
A Basic Overview of Allergic Rhinitis
Allergic rhinitis occurs when your immune system overreacts to particles in the air (allergens) that you are allergic to. When you breathe in these allergens, your body releases histamines as a way to attack. This often results in inflammation of the nasal membranes.
Some of the symptoms of allergic rhinitis include:
- Runny/itchy nose
- Nasal congestion/discharge
- Loss of sense of smell
- Post-nasal drip
- Watery/itchy eyes
- Scratchy throat
The Different Types of Allergic Rhinitis
There are several different types of allergic rhinitis:
- Seasonal allergic rhinitis (hay fever) – A seasonal disorder primarily caused by hypersensitivity to ragweed, but can also result from various, season-specific allergens. Individuals with sensitivity to tree pollen usually have symptoms in March or April, while those sensitive to mold spores usually have symptoms in October or November as a consequence of falling leaves.
- Perennial allergic rhinitis – A year-round disorder that can result from things like sensitivity to pet dander, dust mites, and mold on houseplants, carpeting or upholstery.
- Non-allergic rhinitis – A condition that’s not due to an allergic reaction, rather its symptoms can be triggered by exposure to cigarette smoke, pollutants, strong odors, alcoholic beverages and cold weather.
The Sinuses & Allergic Rhinitis
There’s a close relationship between allergic rhinitis and sinusitis. While it’s possible to have allergic rhinitis and not develop sinusitis and it’s also possible to develop a sinus infection (sinusitis) without any allergy-related symptoms, it’s very common that allergic rhinitis symptoms may precede sinusitis. This is because allergic rhinitis causes your nasal passages to become inflamed and congested, which can end up blocking normal sinus drainage. This will often lead to sinus inflammation and, ultimately, infection.
The longer allergy symptoms go untreated, the longer the sinuses may stay stuffed up. When the normally clear discharge from your nose turns yellow or green, it may be a sign that you’re dealing with sinusitis and need to see a doctor.
Get Treatment for Allergic Rhinitis and Sinus Problems in Dallas/Fort Worth
The best course for preventing rhinitis and sinusitis is to keep your nasal passages as free and clear as possible and to treat nasal congestion at the first signs. This is particularly important if you regularly suffer from seasonal allergies. You can prepare in advance by keeping nasal sprays and allergy treatments on hand.
If seasonal allergies are something that you can’t seem to control no matter what preventative and treatment steps you take, it may be time to see a doctor who specializes in sinus and allergy treatment. DFW Sinus Select is home to leading ENT physicians in the region and offers ten locations in the Dallas/Fort Worth area so that you can access high quality care close to home.
Take control of your allergic rhinitis by scheduling an appointment today. You can get started on your path to a sneeze-free, pain-free season by filling out the appointment form right on this page.