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Clin Exp Allergy. 2016 Sep;46(9):1139-51. doi: 10.1111/cea.12780.

Pathogenesis of rhinitis.

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Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Faculty of Medicine, National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College London, London, UK.


Rhinitis is a heterogeneous condition that has been associated with inflammatory responses as in allergic rhinitis but can also occur in the absence of inflammation such as in so-called idiopathic (previously 'vasomotor') rhinitis. Allergic rhinitis affects approximately one in four of the population of westernized countries and is characterized by typical symptoms of nasal itching, sneezing, watery discharge and congestion. The intention of this review is to illustrate key concepts of the pathogenesis of rhinitis. Imbalance in innate and adaptive immunity together with environmental factors is likely to play major roles. In allergic rhinitis, initial allergen exposure and sensitization involves antigen-presenting cells, T and B lymphocytes and results in the generation of allergen-specific T cells and allergen-specific IgE antibodies. On re-exposure to relevant allergens, cross-linking of IgE on mast cells results in the release of mediators of hypersensitivity such as histamine and immediate nasal symptoms. Within hours, there is an infiltration by inflammatory cells, particularly Th2 T lymphocytes, eosinophils and basophils into nasal mucosal tissue that results in the late-phase allergic response. Evidence for nasal priming and whether or not remodelling may be a feature of allergic rhinitis will be reviewed. The occurrence of so-called local allergic rhinitis in the absence of systemic IgE will be discussed. Non-allergic (non-IgE-mediated) rhinitis will be considered in the context of inflammatory and non-inflammatory disorders.

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