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Clin Cornerstone. 2009;9(3):54-60.

Should clinicians routinely determine rhinitis subtype on initial diagnosis and evaluation? A debate among experts.

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David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Los Angeles, California 90095, USA.


Rhinitis is one of the most prevalent conditions affecting Americans today. Twenty to 40 million Americans (10%-30% of adults and up to 40% of children) are estimated to have allergic rhinitis. In recent decades, its prevalence in Western societies has increased dramatically, and studies from around the world are reporting similar trends. Although studies have traditionally reported a 3:1 ratio of allergic to nonallergic rhinitis, recent data suggest that as many as 87% of patients with rhinitis may have mixed rhinitis, a combination of both allergic and nonallergic rhinitis. Untreated or inappropriately managed rhinitis can significantly affect a patient's quality of life and ability to perform activities of daily living. It is often associated with concomitant conditions, such as fatigue, headache, sleep disturbance, cognitive impairment, and respiratory conditions, complicated by rhinitis, including asthma and sinusitis. It is a significant cause of morbidity, health care expenditure, reduced work productivity, and absences from school. According to the recently released updated practice parameters, The Diagnosis & Management of Rhinitis, rhinitis is characterized by the presence of one or more of the following nasal symptoms: Congestion, Rhinorrhea (anterior and posterior), Sneezing, Itching. Inflammation is normally associated with rhinitis, but certain subtypes of the disease, such as vasomotor (increasingly known as chronic idiopathic rhinitis) or nonallergic rhinitis and atrophic rhinitis, are not predominantly inflammatory. The diagnosis of rhinitis may appear to be a fairly straightforward undertaking; however, rhinitis is composed of numerous subtypes and etiologies, and differentiating them can be a challenge for primary care practitioners. Further complicating matters is the fact that many patients have both an allergic and a nonallergic component to their rhinitis. Whether or not identification of rhinitis subtype should be an integral component of initial diagnosis remains an area of controversy. While standard treatment for allergic and nonallergic rhinitis is often the same, certain subtypes of the disease do not respond well to the usual first-line treatments for allergic rhinitis. Identification of subtype, therefore, can potentially have important implications for treatment choice. In the following section, we present a discussion between 2 members of the Respiratory & Allergic Disease (RAD) Foundation, Thomas B. Casale, MD, and Michael S. Blaiss, MD. Drs. Casale and Blaiss debate the question, "Should clinicians routinely determine rhinitis subtype on initial diagnosis and evaluation?" Each expert was randomly assigned a position to take: Dr. Casale's views represent the "pro" argument while Dr. Blaiss was asked to speak to the "con" argument. The debate concludes with a synthesis of their arguments and final points, including important takeaway messages for the primary care practitioner.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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