Nasal Obstruction

Nasal Obstruction

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:

  • Nasal polyps. These are small, noncancerous growths that form on the lining of the sinuses or the nasal passages. They require no treatment unless they are large enough to obstruct breathing or cause infections.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Foreign objects in the nose. This is especially common in children, who may shove things up their nostrils without considering the consequences.
  • Oversized adenoids. If adenoids are enflamed or infected, this issue should resolve either on its own or with the use of antibiotics. If adenoids are chronically infected or oversized, surgical removal maybe necessary.
  • Swelling of the nasal lining. This is often caused by the cold and flu.

Treating Nasal Obstructions

Your doctor will carefully examine your nose using a lighted scope and may use a CT scan or MRI 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 and providing immediate, short-term relief. An effective long-term solution may require surgery, particularly if the issue involves a deviated septum, turbinates or nasal polyps.

Nasal Polyps

Symptoms of nasal polyps include runny nose, congestion, postnasal drip, loss of smell and taste, facial pain and pressure, headache, pain in the upper teeth, itchy eyes and snoring. If symptoms last longer than ten days and are not associated with a cold or allergies, make an appointment with your doctor. If left untreated, nasal polyps can cause complications such as obstructive sleep apnea, asthma attacks, meningitis, aneurysms and blood clots.

To treat polyps, your ENT specialist will attempt to shrink them down to a manageable size through the use of medications to relieve inflammation or the underlying condition responsible. Common drugs include nasal, oral or injectable corticosteroids, antihistamines and antibiotics. When medical treatment doesn’t work, surgery may be an option. Polyps are removed during an outpatient procedure called a polypectomy or via a more in-depth endoscopic sinus surgery.

Deviated Septum

The perfect nasal septum divides the left and right nostrils evenly, but this is pretty rare; it’s estimated that about 80 percent of the population has a septum that is off center to some extent. Usually the deviation is slight and goes unnoticed; only the worst cases produce symptoms that affect breathing. Symptoms include nasal congestion (often limited to one side of the nose), frequent nosebleeds and sinus infections, facial pain and pressure, headaches, postnasal drip and noisy breathing or snoring. Surgery is the only way to correct a deviated septum.