If you’re blowing your nose often, it’s probably because your nasal passages are congested. Nasal congestion stems from various causes. Acute conditions include things like the common cold and the flu. Chronic conditions include inflammation of the sinuses or sinusitis, structural issues like nasal polyps and a deviated septum, and seasonal allergies, among others.
At Oasis Ear, Nose, and Throat, Dr. James Osborne, Dr. Bryan Smedley, and our expert team specialize in treating nasal congestion, using both conservative measures and a variety of minimally invasive surgeries. If your nose is chronically congested, here’s how we can help.
A few words about your sinuses
Sinuses are air-filled cavities throughout your body, including four pairs of sinuses located behind the nose in the skull. They’re often viewed as a single unit called the "paranasal sinuses."
The paranasal sinuses perform a number of functions. They decrease the weight of the skull, relieving pressure on the spine. They also warm and humidify the air you breathe in, insulate the structures around them (e.g., eyes, nerves), increase the resonance of the voice, and act as buffers against facial trauma.
In addition, the sinuses are lined with mucus-secreting cells, epithelial cells, some immune system cells, as well as cilia, hair-like appendages whose primary function is to sweep mucus, invading pathogens, and trapped particles through the nasal passages and out of the nose.
If your sinuses become blocked or otherwise obstructed, they can produce a number of troublesome symptoms, including nasal congestion and discharge.
Sinusitis and other causes
Chronic sinusitis occurs when the paranasal sinuses become inflamed and swollen for three months or longer, despite treatment.
The inflammation interferes with the way mucus normally drains and makes your nose stuffy in the process. Breathing through your nose may be a struggle, and the area around your eyes can be tender or swollen.
Common signs of chronic sinusitis include:
- Nasal inflammation
- Difficulty breathing through your nose
- Thick but clear discharge from the nose
- Drainage down the back of the throat (postnasal drip)
- Pain, tenderness, and swelling around your eyes, cheeks, nose, or forehead
- Reduced sense of smell and taste
Chronic sinusitis has similar symptoms to acute sinusitis, such as that from a cold. However, the acute variety only lasts a week or so until the infection clears. You may have repeated episodes of acute sinusitis before developing the chronic form.
Nasal polyps are another potential cause of nasal congestion. These painless, noncancerous growths develop in the mucosal lining of the nose and sinuses and hang down like teardrops. They block normal airflow and fluid drainage through your nose.
Allergic rhinitis that occurs in a particular season affects about 8% of Americans, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. In these cases, your immune system reacts to an allergen that triggers an allergic response but isn’t necessarily health-threatening. Pollen from wind-pollinated plants, including trees, grasses, and weeds, is the most common cause.
A deviated septum occurs when the thin wall between your nostrils is displaced to one side, making one nasal passage smaller. It can reduce airflow in the smaller area, causing difficulty breathing and contributing to nasal congestion.
How can you help my nasal congestion?
How the doctors at Oasis ENT treat nasal congestion depends on the underlying cause. Sometimes a saline nasal spray can moisturize the passages enough to relieve congestion, or your doctor may recommend a steroid spray to reduce inflammation.
If you have nasal polyps, medications can often shrink them, but sometimes they need to be surgically removed. In addition, SINUVA is a steroid-releasing implant that can reduce the inflammation from polyps. Even with successful treatment, though, polyps often return.
If you have seasonal allergies, immunotherapy can prove a successful treatment. You’re repeatedly exposed to small amounts of the allergen, enough to help train your immune system not to react so violently when it encounters the real thing.
If you have a deviated septum, a septoplasty procedure restores the normal structure of the nose, alleviating the blockage and congestion.
Other treatments include cryotherapy (freezing growths), endoscopic sinus surgery, and balloon sinus augmentation, which expands the nasal passageways and holds them open.
If you’re dealing with nasal congestion, and you haven’t had success with at-home treatments, it’s time to come into Oasis Ear, Nose, and Throat for an evaluation by one of our otolaryngologists. To learn more or to get started, call us at 623-207-7560, or book online with us today.