Atrophic rhinitis is a shrinking of the bone and tissue that lines the inside of the nose. This can make it hard for the nose to work as it should. There are two types, primary and secondary.
Primary atrophic rhinitis does not have a known cause.
Secondary atrophic rhinitis is caused by an illness or event such as:
- Nasal trauma
- Nasal surgery
- Radiation exposure
Things that may raise the risk of primary atrophic rhinitis are:
- Certain infections
- Poor nutrition
- Problems with hormone levels
- Low levels of iron in the blood
- Problems with the immune system
Things that may raise the risk of secondary atrophic rhinitis are:
- Sinus inflammation
Problems may be:
- A bad odor coming from the nose or mouth
- Nasal discharge
- Crusting and dryness inside the nose
- Nasal blockage or congestion
- Loss of smell
- Wide nasal cavities
The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. Tests may be done to rule out other problems, such as allergies. Tissue from inside the nose may need to be tested. This can be done with a biopsy. Other tests may include:
- CT scan
- Endoscopy—a lighted tube with a small camera that is inserted into the nose
The goal of treatment will be to ease symptoms. The shrinking of tissue increases the size of the nasal cavity. This increases airflow and can cause more irritation of the nasal cavity lining. Good care of the lining may help. First line of treatment may include:
- Nasal irrigation—solution is flushed through the nasal and sinus cavity. It can help to clear crust build up and moisturize the nose. This may be done with tools such as a neti-pot, bulb syringe, or sprayer.
- Avoidance of irritants like smoke, pollution, allergens, or harsh chemicals.
- Antibiotics or other medicine to treat infections. These may be taken as pills or gels applied to the nasal cavity.
Surgery may be needed if first line treatments cannot manage problems. Goals may include one or more of the following:
- Clear crust or adhesions.
- Temporarily block some nasal passages to let the lining of the nose heal.
- Change the shape or size of small bones called turbinates. This will change airflow and may help some areas of lining heal.
American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery https://www.entnet.org
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians https://www.familydoctor.org
Canadian Society of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery https://www.entcanada.org
Health Canada https://www.canada.ca
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- Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Daniel A. Ostrovsky, MD
- Review Date: 10/2021
- Update Date: 10/05/2021