Quality of Life
Although allergic rhinitis is not considered a serious condition, it can interfere with many important aspects of life. Surveys of nasal allergy sufferers report that symptoms such as feeling tired, miserable, or irritable are present in 50 - 75% of patients. Allergic rhinitis can interfere with work or school performance.
People with allergic rhinitis, particularly those with perennial allergic rhinitis, may experience sleep disorders and daytime fatigue. Often they attribute this to medication, but congestion may be the cause of these symptoms. Patients who have severe allergic rhinitis tend to have worse sleep problems, including snoring, than those with mild allergic rhinitis.
Higher Risk for Asthma and Other Allergies
Asthma and allergies often coexist. Patients with allergic rhinitis often have asthma or are increased risk of developing it. Allergic rhinitis is also associated with eczema (atopic dermatitis), an allergic skin reaction characterized by itching, scaling, and red swollen skin. Chronic uncontrolled allergic rhinitis can worsen asthma attacks and eczema.
Chronic Swelling in the Nasal Passages (Turbinate Hypertrophy)
Any chronic rhinitis, whether allergic or nonallergic, can cause swelling in the turbinates, which may become persistent (turbinate hypertrophy). The turbinates are tiny shelf-like bony structures that project into the nasal passageways. They help warm, humidify, and clean the air that passes over them. If turbinate hypertrophy develops, it causes persistent nasal congestion and, sometimes, pressure and headache in the middle of the face and forehead. This condition may require surgery.
Other possible complications of allergic rhinitis include:
- Middle ear infections (otitis media)
- Nasal polyps
- Sleep apnea
- Dental overbite
- Palate malformations caused by mouth breathing
Review Date: 05/03/2011
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.