Nasal Spray Addiction
What is nasal spray addiction? Nasal spray addiction is caused by rebound congestion, otherwise known as rhinitis medicamentosa. The purpose of a nasal decongestant is to constrict the blood vessels in your nose in order to open space in the airways and reduce congestion. When you have a cold, allergies, sinus infection, etc., the blood vessels of the nasal passages become swollen, causing mucus to block the passages. When you use a decongestant, the blood vessels become constricted, opening up the space in the airways and allowing the sinuses to empty.
There are two main types of nasal decongestants: sympathomimetic amines and imidazolines. Sympathomimetic amines cause vasoconstriction in the blood vessels of the nasal passages, which reduces the size of the blood vessels; imidazolines also cause vasoconstriction, as well as decrease the blood flow in this area, reducing the congestion in the nose.
Have you ever found that after discontinuing use of a nasal decongestant, your symptoms have worsened and you are congested once again, possible even more? Sometimes, adverse nasal congestion may occur after using medications other than topical decongestants. This is called rebound congestion and can occur after using nasal decongestants for more than three days. In this case, if you experience congestion without runny nose, postnasal drip, or sneezing, you may be having rebound congestion.
Many people suffer from dependency on nasal decongestant sprays and it can be very difficult to discontinue use while keeping congestion under control. The chronic or excessive use of decongestants can cause the mucosa in the nasal passages to become aggravated. This can lead to loss of the cilia (small hair-like projections) in the nasal passages, cell damage of the nasal mucosa, and swelling in this area—which are all important for getting rid of dust and pathogens in the nasal cavity. Additional symptoms of rebound congestion are headaches, snoring, insomnia; the need to breathe through the mouth causes dry mouth and sore throat. In addition, psychological dependence causes anxiety and restlessness.
How can you avoid getting caught in this trap? Only use a nasal decongestant for the shortest time necessary. If you feel you already depend upon nasal sprays, the first line of treatment is to discontinue use; however, this can result in rebound swelling and congestion. You should consult with a physician to discuss other treatments, such as combination treatment with nasal decongestants and oral medications.