Healthy Living

Breathe a Sigh of Relief

What is allergic rhinitis?

As your nose filters, warms and adds moisture to the air you breathe, it is exposed to a wide array of allergens, such as pollen, mold and animal dander. Although these allergens are not dangerous, in certain people they trigger inflammation, which is part of the body’s natural defense against outside invaders.

Allergic rhinitis occurs when the delicate mucus membranes lining the nasal cavity become inflamed. Symptoms may include nasal congestion, sneezing, itching and clear discharge. More than an unpleasant nuisance, allergic rhinitis can develop into a number of other, more serious health conditions.

“Although anatomically the nose is a separate structure, the airway is unified by chemical signals, and that is the reason why patients with allergic rhinitis can also have symptoms in other places,” said Camilo Reyes Gelves, MD, rhinology and endoscopic skull base surgeon, head and neck surgeon, plastic and reconstructive surgeon at Augusta University Health. “Patients with allergic rhinitis are at increased risk of asthma, sinusitis, otitis media, sleep apnea, dental problems, allergic conjunctivitis and eustachian tube dysfunction.”

The link between allergic rhinitis and sinusitis

Sinusitis, also called sinus infection, is one of the most common complications of allergic rhinitis. Infection develops as a result of an inflammation of the mucosa that lines the paranasal sinuses, resulting in persistent nasal obstruction, postnasal discharge, foul odor, loss of smell and facial pain/pressure.

In some cases, sinusitis is the result of a structural problem within the nose, such as a deviated septum (a structure that divides the nostrils) or enlarged or displaced turbinates (fleshy air filters inside the nose). In other cases, when allergies are severe enough, nasal polyps are a result of a chronic inflammatory reaction which can cause or worsen a sinus infection.

How surgery can help

While surgery cannot cure allergies, it can help prevent rhinitis from progressing to sinusitis. Surgery promotes improved airflow and sinus drainage by correcting structural problems in the nasal passages and/or removing polyps or other obstructions. This helps make allergy therapies more effective.

“Any surgery that can improve medication delivery to the nose will help with allergy treatment,” Dr. Reyes Gelves said. “Procedures such as straightening a deviated septum and sinus surgery can improve symptom control, nasal breathing, topical medication delivery and overall quality of life.”

Call 706-721-2273 (CARE), or visit augustahealth.org to schedule an appointment with an otolaryngologist or learn more about our sinus disorders services.

About the author

Augusta University Health

Augusta University Health

Based in Augusta, Georgia, Augusta University Health is a world-class health care network, offering the most comprehensive primary, specialty and subspecialty care in the region. Augusta University Health provides skilled, compassionate care to its patients, conducts leading-edge clinical research and fosters the medical education and training of tomorrow’s health care practitioners. Augusta University Health is a not-for-profit corporation that manages the clinical operations associated with Augusta University.