Nasal Obstruction

What is Nasal Obstruction?
Nasal obstruction is a sense of blockage within the nose or difficulty breathing out of one or both sides of the nose.

What are the common causes for Nasal Obstruction?
There are many potential causes for nasal obstruction. Some of the most common causes are nasal allergies, deviation of the nasal septum (the partition in the middle of the nose on the inside), sinus or nasal infection, or a number of other potential causes.

Why do allergies cause Nasal Obstruction?
Nasal allergies result from the lining of the nose being over-reactive to substances in the environment, such as dust for example. When a patient who is allergic to dust encounters a dusty environment, the lining of the nose on the inside swells and produces watery secretions. This swelling inside the nose takes up much of the space which is normally available for breathing and makes the passageways for airflow much smaller. This is the cause of nasal obstruction for this particular patient. Treatment can be directed at reducing this hyperactivity of the nasal lining in order to improve this type of nasal obstruction.

What is a Deviated Septum?
When the physician reports that a patient has a deviated septum, this means that the partition in the middle of the nose (the septum) is bent and is blocking one or both sides of the nose. This can cause symptoms of nasal obstruction, which can be quite bothersome. Many patients have a deviated septum and do not have a history of an injury to their nose, but some patients have developed a deviated septum due to a prior episode of trauma to the nose. The patient may or may not have actually fractured their nose in the past. Depending on how much difficulty the patient is having with his or her nasal airway, a procedure called septoplasty may be recommended in order to straighten the septum and improve the nasal airway. This procedure is performed with an incision that is placed inside the nose to allow the surgeon to work on the septum.

Are there any other structural problems that can give Nasal Obstruction?
Yes. In addition to a deviated septum, a patient may also have large turbinates. The turbinates are finger-like projections on the inside of the nose on each side which humidify and clean the air as we breathe. Sometimes the turbinates are large enough to cause significant difficulty with nasal breathing. Some patients will have both large turbinates and a deviated septum, which can further worsen nasal breathing. Sometimes the turbinates are enlarged simply as a part of nasal allergies. If this is the case, treatment may be directed at the allergy itself. The turbinates may also be treated with a procedure. The turbinates may be reduced in size by a surgical procedure in the Operating Room.

A newer procedure, which can be performed in the office, is called Somnoplasty Turbinate Reduction. With this technique, the turbinate is anesthetized in the office with local anesthesia. A small needle is introduced into the turbinate after it is anesthetized, and a very controlled burn is created within the turbinate. Over the following weeks, contraction of the turbinate occurs as the body's healing process takes place and the turbinate shrinks. Results of this procedure have generally been good. The significant advantage is, in general, very minimal pain, if any. The Somnoplasty technique is the same technology that is also used on the palate (the roof of the mouth) to treat snoring. To learn more about the Somnoplasty technology, click here.

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