How nasal sprays create a vicious cycle in sinus infections

Nasal decongestant sprays such as Afrin and other decongestant sprays are frequently used to treat nasal congestion, sinus infection, and allergies.  These sprays are safe and effective when used as directed.  However, a quick look at the instruction pamphlet of these sprays shows the following message: “Do not use for longer than 3 to 5 days. Longer use could cause damage to your nasal tissue and lead to chronic congestion. If your symptoms do not improve, see your doctor.”

What most people don’t know is that drugs in these sprays such as phenylephrine, neo-synephrine, oxymetazoline, and xylometazoline can create damage to the sinus tissues after only 5 days.  Each time the spray is used, the medication squeezes shut the blood vessels of the nose, just like a tourniquet to a leg squeezes off blood to the foot.  This “chemical tourniquet” lasts about 12 hours before it wears off.

Frequent use longer than 5 days starves the nose of oxygen and nutrients.  Eventually, the nose develops edema and even physical damage.  This is called “rhinitis medicamentosa”.  To fight this “chemical tourniquet” our bodies start to try to increase the blood flow to the nose to fight against the damage.  The increase in blood results in even more severe nasal congestion and obstruction (rebound phenomenon).  A vicious cycle is created, forcing the patient to keep using more and more spray to get rid of the symptoms.
This addiction occurs with nasal decongestants and not with steroid and other types of nasal sprays.  Like any addiction, the withdrawal process is unavoidable and can be truly miserable for the patient.  Nova Sinus Center specializes in relieving sinus pain, pressure, and congestion naturally without the use of addicting nasal sprays.  Unfortunately, the discomfort of withdrawal will be experienced by all sufferers of rhinitis medicamentosa, however our REST treatment protocols are a gentle and soothing way to blunt the severity of this withdrawal period.  Once healed, REST treatments also provide a healthy way to maintain healthy sinuses throughout cold, flu, and allergy seasons.

Dr. Jake Felice, Sinus treatment specialist at Nova Sinus Center

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