Nasal obstructions are blockages of the nasal cavity that impede airflow in and out of the nose. Either one or both nostrils may be affected. Most nasal obstructions are temporary, caused by colds, allergies, sinus infections, or medications, while others require medical intervention.
Types of Nasal Obstruction
There are several different types of nasal obstruction. These include:
- Deviated nasal septum. The nasal septum is the wall-like structure that divides the left and right nostrils. A deviated septum refers to one that is crooked. This is hardly rare; it is estimated that 80 percent of people have septal deviations to some degree. Symptoms include difficulty breathing through the nose (especially one nostril) and a runny nose.
- Inferior turbinate hypertrophy. The nasal cavity contains bony structures called turbinates. These are susceptible to irritation from allergies and dust, which cause swelling and breathing difficulties.
- Nasal valve collapse. The nasal valve is the narrowest part of the nasal airway and is located between the nasal cartilage within the skin and the inferior turbinate. This is a very common and under recognized cause of nasal obstruction. If Breathe Right strips provide relief, the nasal valve may be a major cause of nasal obstruction.
- Nasal polyps. These are benign growths that occur on the mucosal lining of the nasal passages. They are typically small and though noncancerous; however, nasal polyps can still cause obstructions of the sinuses, leading to congestion, breathing problems, and sinus infections.
- Foreign objects in the nose. Most cases of foreign objects in the nose occur in toddlers and children. Common objects include food material, tissue paper, beads, toys, and rocks.
- Oversized adenoids. The adenoids are soft tissue, similar to the tonsils, located behind the nose and roof of mouth. They are part of the immune system and aid in fighting off infection. They can become infected and enlarged. This can block airflow through the nose.
- Swelling of the nasal lining due to allergies. Allergies are the result of the immune system’s response to substances in the environment. When an allergen is encountered, antibodies trigger the release of multiple chemicals including histamines. The release of these inflammatory chemicals and histamines result in the telltale symptoms of allergies, including swelling of the nasal lining.
- Choanal atresia. This is a congenital defect in which excess tissue in the nasal airway causes a partial or full blockage, resulting in difficulty breathing.
Treating Nasal Obstruction
We will carefully examine your nose using a lighted scope and may use a CT scan in order to diagnose your nasal obstruction. The first step in treating nasal obstructions is getting the symptoms under control. Medications or nasal steroid sprays are often helpful in reducing inflammation of the nose and turbinates and providing short-term relief. Allergy testing may be helpful.
An effective long-term solution may require surgery, particularly if the issue involves a deviated septum, nasal valve collapse, turbinates, or nasal polyps. While traditionally many of the procedures have been performed in the operating room under general anesthesia, newer techniques may allow in-office treatment without general anesthesia.
Call Texas ENT & Allergy at (877) 377-4368 for more information or to schedule an appointment.