The nasal turbinates are long, thin bones that run in the inner nose from front to back. They are covered in nasal tissue which helps to moisturize, heat and clean the air that we breath in through our nostrils. When they are hypertrophic (too large) they cause nasal obstruction symptoms.
SYMPTOMS: Having a hard time breathing in through our nose (usually on both sides), decreased sense of smell, feeling that nose is “closed”, snoring, poor sleep, fatigue, trouble breathing with exertion or exercising, sinus symptoms, headaches, emotional distress, runny nose, nosebleeds, breathing from the mouth, dry mouth, dental problems, nasal breathing symptoms worsen with colds or allergies and awareness that nose can feel blocked on alternating sides.
CAUSES: Turbinate hypertrophy is very common and can affect all of us at some point in our lives. The hypertrophy can be due to the turbinate bones being large, the overlying tissue being too thick, recurrent swelling of the tissues from allergies, colds and sinus infections. More often than not, the turbinates are enlarged due to a combination of all these factors.
DIAGNOSIS: Turbinate hypertrophy is diagnosed from a patient’s history and a good physical exam of the nose and sinus passages. Nasal Endoscopy is a diagnostic tool used to get a clear and thorough visualization of the inner nose and structures. A great way to make the diagnosis is to spray a nasal decongestant into the nose both before and after Nasal Endoscopy. A CT Scan is also very helpful in analyzing in detail the structures of the inner nose to determine the cause of the symptoms and is useful if a surgical solution will be considered.
TREATMENT: Initial treatment is medical and includes the use of medicated nasal sprays to try and improve the hypertrophy. Allergies should also be fully treated. Nasal saline rinses can also be used to help keep the nasal passages clear. If the medical treatment is not successful, then a CT Scan can be performed to see if a Turbinoplasty can provide a long-term solution for the problem.