Non-allergic rhinitis (NAR) causes symptoms such as congestion, runny nose, and sneezing by affecting the nasal passages. Unlike allergic rhinitis, which allergens like pollen, dust mites, and pet dander trigger, NAR does not result from an allergic reaction. Instead, it is believed to be due to various factors such as environmental irritants, infections, and hormonal imbalances.
Recently, there has been speculation as to whether NAR is an autoimmune disease. In this article, we will explore the evidence surrounding this theory and examine what it means for people living with NAR.
What is Non Allergic Rhinitis?
Before we delve into the question of whether NAR is an autoimmune disease, let’s take a closer look at what the condition entails.
Non-allergic rhinitis inflames the nasal passages and is a chronic condition.
A variety of factors such as environmental irritants, infections, and hormonal imbalances can trigger NAR, while allergic rhinitis is caused by an immune response to allergens. Common symptoms of NAR are a stuffy or runny nose, sneezing, postnasal drip, and congestion.
What is an Autoimmune Disease?
An autoimmune disease is a condition in which the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells and tissues in the body. Normally, the immune system’s role is to protect the body from harmful invaders such as viruses and bacteria. However, in people with autoimmune diseases, the immune system fails to distinguish between healthy cells and foreign invaders, leading to the destruction of healthy tissues and the development of various symptoms.
Types of Non Allergic Rhinitis
There are two main types of non allergic rhinitis: vasomotor rhinitis and idiopathic rhinitis.
The dilation of blood vessels in the nasal passages causes vasomotor rhinitis, which can occur due to a variety of factors such as changes in temperature, humidity, and exposure to irritants like cigarette smoke.
Idiopathic rhinitis, on the other hand, is a catch-all term for NAR that does not have an identifiable cause. Persistent, year-round symptoms often characterize this form of NAR.
Is Non Allergic Rhinitis an Autoimmune Disease?
Although the exact cause of non-allergic rhinitis is not fully understood, some researchers have suggested that it may be an autoimmune disease. An autoimmune disease occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells and tissues.
The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology published a study which suggested that some forms of NAR may be autoimmune in nature. The study found that patients with NAR had elevated levels of certain antibodies produced by the immune system to attack foreign invaders. However, the study also pointed out that confirming this hypothesis would require further research.
The European Journal of Inflammation published a study which found that patients with NAR had increased levels of certain inflammatory markers, typically elevated in autoimmune diseases. However, the study did not definitively link NAR with autoimmune disease.
What Does This Mean for People Living with Non Allergic Rhinitis?
If NAR is indeed an autoimmune disease, it could have important implications for the treatment and management of the condition. Autoimmune diseases are typically treated with immunosuppressive drugs, which work by suppressing the immune system’s activity. However, these drugs can have serious side effects and may not be appropriate for all patients.
It’s important to note that even if NAR is not an autoimmune disease, it is still a chronic condition that can have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life. Treatment options for NAR typically include over-the-counter or prescription nasal sprays, antihistamines, and decongestants. In some cases, allergen immunotherapy may also be recommended.
Symptoms and Causes of NAR
Non-Allergic Rhinitis (NAR) is a type of rhinitis that causes symptoms similar to those of allergic rhinitis, such as nasal congestion, runny nose, sneezing, and post-nasal drip, but without any identifiable allergic triggers. NAR can be classified into two types: primary NAR and secondary NAR.
Primary NAR refers to cases where there is no underlying cause for the rhinitis symptoms, while secondary NAR occurs as a result of an underlying medical condition, such as a hormonal imbalance, a side effect of medication, or an anatomical abnormality.
Some of the common causes and triggers of NAR include:
Environmental irritants: Exposure to irritants such as smoke, pollution, strong odors, and dust can trigger NAR symptoms.
Changes in temperature and humidity: Changes in temperature and humidity can cause NAR symptoms in some people.
Hormonal imbalances: Hormonal changes during pregnancy, menstruation, and menopause can lead to NAR symptoms.
Medications: Certain medications, such as blood pressure medications, antidepressants, and aspirin, can trigger NAR symptoms.
Stress: Emotional stress and anxiety can trigger NAR symptoms in some people.
Anatomical abnormalities: Structural abnormalities in the nose, such as a deviated septum or enlarged turbinates, can cause NAR symptoms.
Home Remedies and Lifestyle Changes for NAR
In addition to medical treatment, there are several home remedies and lifestyle changes that can help to manage Non-Allergic Rhinitis (NAR) symptoms. Here are some examples:
Nasal irrigation: Nasal irrigation, also known as nasal rinsing, involves flushing out the nasal passages with a saline solution. This can help to clear out mucus and irritants and reduce inflammation.
Steam inhalation: Inhaling steam from a bowl of hot water or a warm shower can help to moisten the nasal passages and reduce congestion.
Avoiding triggers: Identify and avoid triggers that can worsen NAR symptoms, such as cigarette smoke, air pollution, strong odors, and temperature changes.
Managing stress: Stress can worsen NAR symptoms, so it’s important to find ways to manage stress, such as practicing mindfulness, yoga, or other relaxation techniques.
Improving indoor air quality: Use air purifiers, keep humidity levels between 30-50%, and avoid using harsh cleaning chemicals or fragrances.
Keeping nasal passages moist: Dry air can irritate the nasal passages, so using a humidifier or keeping a bowl of water in the room can help to keep the air moist.
Eating a healthy diet: Eating a diet rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals can help to boost the immune system and reduce inflammation.
In conclusion, although it remains unresolved whether NAR is an autoimmune disease or not, it is clear that this condition can significantly affect a person’s quality of life. By working closely with your healthcare provider and taking steps to manage your symptoms at home, you can take control of your NAR and improve your overall health and wellbeing.