Chronic Rhinitis and Post-Nasal Drip

  • Medical Author:
    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Quick GuideSinus Infection (Sinusitis) Symptoms & Treatment

Sinus Infection (Sinusitis) Symptoms & Treatment

What conditions cause an abnormal production of nasal secretions?

The following conditions are often associated with increased nasal drainage (runny nose). It is common to have more than one factor involved in a particular individual.

  • Viruses
  • Allergies
  • Cold temperatures
  • Certain foods or spices
  • Pregnancy or hormonal changes
  • Drug side-effects (particularly certain high blood pressure medications)
  • Structural problems (deviated septum, large turbinates)
  • Vasomotor rhinitis (an abnormal regulatory problem with the nose)

Decreasing the fluid content of the mucus usually thickens the secretions leading to the impression of increased mucus. The following may cause thickened secretions:

  • Low humidity
  • Sinus or nasal infections
  • Foreign bodies (especially if the drainage is from one side)
  • Environmental irritants (tobacco smoke, smog)
  • Structural problems (deviated septum, enlarged turbinates, enlarged adenoids)
  • Advanced age - mucus membrane lining the nose can shrink with age leading to a reduced volume of secretions that are thicker
  • Hormonal problems
  • Drug side-effects (antihistamines)

What conditions cause an impaired clearance of nasal secretions?

The primary reason for impaired clearance of nasal secretions within the nasal cavities is from smoking. Smoking impairs the movement of the cilia (microscopic hairs) and their ability to push the secretions out of the nasal cavity to be swallowed. Other conditions that can impact clearance of secretions in the nose include allergies and some genetic disorders.

Swallowing problems can make it difficult to clear normal secretions from the back of the throat. This may result in the accumulation of material in the throat, which can spill into the voice box, causing hoarseness, throat clearing, or cough. The following factors can contribute to swallowing problems:

  • Advancing age: This will lead to decreased strength and coordination in swallowing.
  • Stress: Stress leads to muscle spasm or "lump in throat." Also a nervous habit of frequent throat clearing will make the situation worse.
  • Narrowing of the throat due to tumors or other conditions: This will impair the passage of food.
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Nerve or muscle disorders: (stroke, and muscle diseases, etc.)

Which specialties of doctors treat chronic rhinitis and post-nasal drip?

  • A primary care provider (PCP) such as a family practitioner, an internist, or a child's pediatrician may diagnose chronic rhinitis and post-nasal drip. If chronic rhinitis and post-nasal drip are due to allergies you may see an allergist/immunologist.
  • If chronic rhinitis and post-nasal drip is due to asthma you may see a pulmonologist, a specialist in conditions affecting the lungs.
  • If the conditions are severe or recurrent, you may be referred to an otolaryngologist, also called an ear-nose-throat (ENT) specialist for further treatment.
  • If you get chronic rhinitis and post-nasal drip during pregnancy you may be referred to your obstetrician/gynecologist (OB/GYN).
  • If acid reflux disease (GERD) is the cause of your chronic rhinitis and post-nasal drip, you may see a gastroenterologist, a specialist in conditions of the digestive tract.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/14/2016

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