Characteristics of Nonallergic Vasomotor Rhinitis

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Nonallergic rhinitis (NAR) conditions are currently considered diagnoses by exclusion. A diagnosis of NAR requires negative specific IgE responses by skin or serologic testing and more recently testing to exclude localized production of specific IgE in the nose. Symptoms are classically aggravated by irritant triggers such as tobacco smoke, perfumes/fragrances, and temperature or barometric pressure changes. A previously developed questionnaire survey designed to help physicians recognize differences between allergic rhinitis and nonallergic rhinitis subtypes found that patients with symptom onset later in life (>35 years), no family history of allergies, no seasonality or cat-induced symptoms, and symptoms induced by perfumes and fragrances had >95% likelihood of having a physician diagnosis of NAR. Of note, clinical symptoms were not generally useful for differentiating chronic rhinitis subtypes which has also been confirmed in a more recent study investigating the relationship between headaches and chronic rhinitis subtypes (Table 1). In subsequent studies it was found that a significant percentage of NAR patients did not experience irritant-induced symptoms, suggesting that these triggers are not a clinical characteristic that can be uniformly used for all NAR patients. However, a newly developed Irritant Index Scale can be used to reliably differentiate pure allergic rhinitis from nonallergic rhinitis with trigger phenotypes. The use of standardized and validated questionnaires allows objective characterization of chronic rhinitis subtypes that appears to improve the accuracy of clinically diagnosing these patients.

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