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Rhinitis medicamentosa

Rhinitis medicamentosa
Classification & external resources
DiseasesDB 11545
eMedicine ped/2010 

Rhinitis medicamentosa (or RM) is a condition of rebound nasal congestion brought on by extended use of topical decongestants (e.g. oxymetazoline, phenylephrine, and xylometazoline nasal sprays) that work by constricting blood vessels in the lining of the nose.



This condition typically occurs after 5 to 7 days of use of such medications. Patients often try increasing both the dose and the frequency of nasal sprays upon the onset of RM, worsening the condition. The swelling of the nasal passages caused by rebound congestion may eventually result in polyps that block nasal breathing until surgically removed.[citation needed]

Topical nasal sprays act as an agonist to sympathetic α1 receptors in the blood vessels of the nose, signaling those vessels to contract. By decreasing blood flow to the lining of the nose, the tissue becomes less congested and mucous production is slowed. However, after several days' use of these products these receptors become downregulated requiring more frequent and higher doses to prevent the rebound congestion that results when the medicine wears off.


The treatment of RM involves withdrawal of the offending nasal spray. Both a "cold turkey" and a "weaning" approach can be used. Symptoms of congestion and runny nose can often be temporized by using prescription nasal steroid sprays 1 to 2 times daily for a few weeks. For very severe cases oral steroids may be necessary. Oral decongestant medications like pseudoephedrine can also help with the transition.

Other commercially available products such as Rhinostat may help ease withdrawal from physiological tolerance to the nasal decongestant by providing an easy means to dilute the spray gradually.[citation needed]

A study has shown that the anti-infective agent benzalkonium chloride, which is frequently added to topical nasal sprays, aggravates the condition by further increasing the rebound swelling. [1]


Common issues that lead to overuse of topical decongestants:

See also

  • Topical decongestant


  • Bernstein IL: Is the use of benzalkonium chloride as a preservative for nasal formulations a safety concern? J Allergy Clin Immunol 2000 Jan; 105(1 Pt 1): 39-44.
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  • Fleece L, Mizes JS, Jolly PA, Baldwin RL: Rhinitis medicamentosa. Conceptualization, incidence, and treatment. Ala J Med Sci 1984 Apr; DA - 19840716(2): 205-8.
  • Graf P: Adverse effects of benzalkonium chloride on the nasal mucosa: allergic rhinitis and rhinitis medicamentosa. Clin Ther 1999 Oct; 21(10): 1749-55.
  • Graf P, Hallen H, Juto JE: Benzalkonium chloride in a decongestant nasal spray aggravates rhinitis medicamentosa in healthy volunteers. Clin Exp Allergy 1995 May; 25(5): 395-400.
  • Lin CY, Cheng PH, Fang SY: Mucosal changes in rhinitis medicamentosa. Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol 2004 Feb; 113(2): 147-51.
  • Mabry RL: Rhinitis medicamentosa: the forgotten factor in nasal obstruction. South Med J 1982 Jul; 75(7): 817-9.
  • Wang JQ, Bu GX: Studies of rhinitis medicamentosa. Chin Med J (Engl) 1991 Jan; 104(1): 60-3.
  1. ^ Benzalkonium chloride in a decongestant nasal spray aggravates rhinitis medicamentosa in healthy volunteers Graf P., Hallen H., Juto JE., Clin Exp Allergy, 1995; 25 (5):395-400.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Rhinitis_medicamentosa". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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