Traumatic unilateral vasomotor rhinitis

October 31, 2012
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Vasomotor rhinitis (VMR) is a commonly encountered entity that may be difficult to diagnose. The classic symptoms are clear rhinorrhea and nasal congestion, commonly brought on by exercise, stress, heat, cold, and environmental irritants. The diagnosis is one of exclusion, and management usually involves avoidance of inciting agents and treatment with an anticholinergic nasal spray. We describe a case of VMR in a 22-year-old woman who presented with symptoms of clear, left-sided rhinorrhea and epiphora that had begun shortly after a motor vehicle accident approximately 1.5 years earlier, but which she had not reported at that time. The patient's left carotid canal had been fractured and the surrounding sympathetic plexus injured in the accident, resulting in an overactive parasympathetic system. Both exercise and heat exacerbated her symptoms. Allergy was excluded by negative allergy testing, and the patient did not respond to fluticasone nasal spray. Given the mechanism of injury, the unilaterality of symptoms, and the patient's lack of response to nasal steroids, it was thought that the VMR was due to the earlier traumatic injury, which had resulted in imbalance of the autonomic neural input. A trial of ipratropium was given to directly treat the parasympathetic overactivity. This treatment resulted in immediate improvement in both the nasal and lacrimal secretions.


Vasomotor rhinitis (VMR) is described as chronic, intermittent nasal obstruction accompanied by nasal discharge and mucous membrane swelling in the absence of allergy or infection. It is a diagnosis of exclusion and requires eliminating allergic and nonallergic etiologies before making the diagnosis. VMR is classically described as being due to autonomic dysfunction-specifically, increased parasympathetic activity that causes the aforementioned rhinorrhea and nasal congestion.

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