The Link Between Allergic Rhinitis and Thyroid Disease

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Research suggests a connection between Hashimoto's disease (an autoimmune thyroid disease that causes a thyroid hormone deficiency) and sinus and allergy problems, specifically an immune system related condition called allergic rhinitis. 

Let's take a closer look at the connection between thyroid disease and allergic rhinitis, and what this may mean for your thyroid care.

Overview of Allergic Rhinitis

Allergic rhinitis is a common medical condition that causes inflammation and irritation of the nasal passages. It affects nearly 50 million Americans, according to the American College of Asthma, Allergy, and Immunology, and occurs when a person's immune system overreacts to an allergen like insects, pollen, mold, dust mites, and animal dander. Irritants like cigarette smoke, perfume, and diesel exhaust are additional triggers.

Symptoms

The symptoms of allergic rhinitis commonly include:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Stuffy and itchy nose
  • Cough
  • Postnasal drip
  • Sinus pain and headache

Treatment

Since symptoms of allergic rhinitis disappear when a person is not exposed to the allergen, avoiding the exposure is key. Depending on the specific allergen, this may mean washing your hands thoroughly after petting an animal, closing windows during high pollen season, or using dust mite-proof impermeable mattresses and pillow covers. Nasal saline washings may also be helpful for rinsing allergens out of your nasal passages.

For persistent and/or disabling symptoms, an intranasal corticosteroid like Flonase (fluticasone) may be recommended. Combining an intranasal corticosteroid with an oral or intranasal antihistamine may also help reduce inflammation.

Immunotherapy is sometimes recommended for severe allergies. Sublingual immunotherapy drops are also available by prescription and may work more quickly than traditional allergy shots.

Connection Between Allergic Rhinitis and Hypothyroidism

study in the American Journal of Rhinology and Allergy tested over 1200 people with allergic rhinitis for thyroid disease. Over 16 percent of them were found to have Hashimoto's disease. This is much higher than the incidence of Hashimoto's disease in the general population, which is about 1.5 percent.

Research has also found an association between autoimmune thyroid disease and other allergic diseases (eczema and asthma)—and these allergic diseases commonly co-occur with allergic rhinitis. 

Despite this interesting research, the precise link between allergic rhinitis and autoimmune thyroid disease is still fuzzy and complex, although it's likely that a person's dysfunctional immune system is the connecting factor.  

A Word From Verywell

The presence of a connection between autoimmune diseases, like Hashimoto's and allergic rhinitis, is well known. Even so, we do not know exactly what this connection means, especially when it comes to patient care. For instance, it is unclear whether Hashimoto's and allergic rhinitis simply share a common foundation (both stem from an improperly functioning immune system) or if there is something more going on—like whether treating one disease will improve the other. 

Regardless, if you have allergic rhinitis, it's sensible to discuss getting your thyroid function tested with your doctor, especially if you have a family history of thyroid disease.

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