The Nasal Cavity
Your nasal cavity is an air-filled space in the interior of your nose. The nasal cavity is lined with a mucous membrane and is separated, ideally in the center, by a wall of cartilage and thin bone, known as the septum. The septum is what creates your right and left nostrils. Additionally, there are six curved bones covered by expansile tissue in the nasal cavity that are called turbinates, or nasal concha. These paired turbinates function to cleanse, condition and heat (or cool) the air you breathe. Once the air has passed through your nostrils, it travels via the respiratory tract to your lungs.
Causes of Nasal Airway Obstruction
There are several common causes for nasal airway obstruction. The most frequently experienced causes include:
- Enlarged Turbinates – Known as turbinate hypertrophy, enlargement of the turbinates can be a cause of nasal airway obstruction. Turbinate hypertrophy is an incredibly commonplace condition, though it is not a large cause for concern in many. The enlarged turbinates can make breathing through one, or both, nostrils nearly impossible.
- Deviated Septum – The American Academy of Otolaryngology estimates that as many as 80% of Americans experience an off-center septum. While this is not a problem in many instances, it can increase the likelihood of chronic sinusitis and be a contributing factor to nasal airway obstruction. A septum being crooked makes breathing with one of the nostrils significantly more difficult.
- Nasal Polyps – Polyps are benign growths that appear on the lining of the nasal cavity. These growths can congest the nasal cavity, making it harder to breath.
- Enlarged Adenoids – The adenoid tissue, located in the back of the nose, generally shrinks late in the teen years. If the adenoid tissue does not get smaller, it can contribute to chronic sinus infections and airway obstruction. Enlarged adenoids are not just problematic in terms of airway obstruction; they may also indicate the presence of a tumor.
In addition to these causes of nasal airway obstruction, the condition can also occur as a result of a foreign object, swollen nasal lining due to allergies and certain medications, such as nasal decongestant sprays.
Ultimately, the treatment for your nasal airway obstruction is determined by the cause of the problem. Often, the condition can be treated with the use of nasal corticosteroids or topical antihistamines. Other causes of nasal airway obstruction require surgery to treat. Potential surgeries used to correct obstruction of the nasal cavity include:
- Septoplasty – When the cause of the obstruction is a deviated septum, surgery to correct the deviation is a treatment. During this surgery, the crooked cartilage and bone of the septum are straightened.
- Surgery of the Turbinates – These surgeries are commonly known as turbinate reduction surgery or turbinate resection. Often these procedures occur at the same time of a septoplasty. Some methods, such as radiofrequency reduction, shrink turbinates without removing tissue or bone. In some instances, it may be necessary to remove a portion of the turbinate.
Dr. Austin has served the Austin area since 1995. His experience and care make him the leading choice for your Austin ENT doctor. Contact his office today to learn more about your nasal airway obstruction and how it can be treated.