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J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2003 Sep;103(9):423-7.

Effect of topical nasal corticosteroids on patients with chronic fatigue syndrome and rhinitis.

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  • 1Division of Biology and Medicine, Brown Medical School, Brown University, Providence, RI, USA.



Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a disabling illness of persistent fatigue. Recent studies have shown that patients with CFS have an increased prevalence of nonallergic rhinitis. Inflammation of the nasal passages due to allergic rhinitis can cause nasal congestion resulting in an increased number of sleep disturbances and daytime fatigue. While topical nasal corticosteroids have been shown to alleviate nasal obstruction effectively in patients with rhinitis who do not have CFS, it is unknown whether topical nasal corticosteroids will reduce CFS symptoms.


The purpose of this study is to determine whether topical nasal corticosteroids will reduce daytime sleepiness in patients with CFS and rhinitis.


Twenty-eight of 31 subjects with rhinitis and a diagnosis of CFS completed the double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Two subjects failed screening, and 3 subjects withdrew from the study prior to its completion. Subjects were randomized according to Balaam's crossover design, and one of the following interventions was used for each group in the study: 8-week treatment with a topical nasal corticosteroid, 8-week treatment with a placebo saline spray, 4-week treatment with a topical nasal corticosteroid followed by a 4-week treatment with a placebo saline spray, or a 4-week treatment with a placebo saline spray followed by a 4-week treatment with a topical nasal corticosteroid. Data focusing on rhinitis symptoms, severity of chronic fatigue symptoms, and quality of life were gathered at biweekly office visits and with daily diaries.


The results indicated that daytime sleepiness was reduced when patients with rhinitis and CFS were treated with topical nasal corticosteroids. The severity of associated CFS symptoms, specifically fatigue, muscle pain, postexertional fatigue, and daily activity, did not improve with treatment.


Treating the symptoms of rhinitis in patients with CFS does not appear to alleviate daytime fatigue or associated nasal, musculoskeletal, or cognitive complaints. Therefore, it is unlikely that aggressive treatment of such symptoms with topical nasal corticosteroids will provide significant benefit to patients with CFS who do not have allergic rhinitis. These results indicate that the nonallergic rhinitis seen in patients with CFS may arise from a mechanism other than chronic inflammation.

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