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.
There are several different types of nasal obstruction. These include deviated nasal septum, inferior turbinate hypertrophy, choanal atresia, nasal polyps, foreign objects in the nose, oversized adenoids and swelling of the nasal lining due to allergies.
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% of people have septal deviations to some degree. Symptoms include difficulty breathing through the nose (especially one nostril) and a runny nose. The nasal cavity contains bony structures called turbinates. These are susceptible to irritation from allergies and dust, which cause swelling and breathing difficulties. This is a congenital defect in which excess tissue in the nasal airway causes a partial or full blockage, resulting in difficulty breathing.
The doctor will carefully examine the nose using a lighted scope and may use a CT scan or MRI in order to diagnose the 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 immediate, short-term relief.
Septoplasty is a surgical procedure used to correct a deviated septum. When the bone and cartilage making up the septum – the wall that divides the nostrils – is crooked, it causes obstruction of the nasal airways and makes breathing difficult. This can lead to nosebleeds, snoring, sleep apnea and chronic sinusitis. Surgery to straighten the septum can eliminate these conditions and improve one’s quality of life.
The procedure to remove the adenoids, known as an adenoidectomy, is routine and performed on an outpatient basis. It is often recommended that a tonsillectomy (surgery to remove the tonsils) be performed at the same time, since tonsillitis and adenoiditis often occur simultaneously.