What is nasal obstruction?
A nasal obstruction occurs whenever air flow through the nose is impeded due to any reason. It is also known as a nasal blockage and can occur in one or both nostrils.
Nasal obstructions are often caused by allergies or sinus infections and are temporary. However, nasal obstructions could also be a symptom of common diseases like septal deviation, rhinitis, nasal trauma, or adenoid hypertrophy.
In some cases, nasal blockages get cleared by themselves, while medical intervention is required in others.
Types of nasal obstruction
Nasal obstructions can be of many types. Excluding the instances of nasal blockages caused due to the insertion of foreign objects in the nasal cavities, nasal obstructions can be caused due to the following reasons.
Deviated nasal septum
The nasal septum is the bony wall in the nose that divides the nasal cavity into the right and left sides. If the nasal septum is crooked, it is called a deviated septum. It is very common.
Most people have a septum that is crooked to some degree. In most cases, the deviation is not serious enough to cause nasal blockages.
However, in some cases, a deviated septum can lead to chronic runny noses and breathing difficulties.
Choanal atresia is a congenital condition marked by a narrowing or blockage of the nasal airway by tissue.
It is believed to occur when the thin tissue separating the mouth and the nose area during foetal development doesn’t dissolve by itself and remains after birth.
Adenoids are a patch of tissue located at the end of the nasal cavity. They help to prevent foreign particles from entering the body through the nasal passage.
When enlarged, these adenoids can cause nasal obstruction and breathing difficulties.
Inferior turbinate hypertrophy
Turbinates are bony structures located inside the nose.
The turbinate tissue can become inflamed for many reasons, such as respiratory infections, colds, allergies, reactions to certain medicines, etc.
Nasal polyps are soft, non-cancerous growth on the nasal passages or the lining of the sinuses.
These polyps are usually painless but may cause breathing difficulties and nasal obstructions.
Signs and symptoms of nasal obstruction
Some common signs and of nasal obstruction symptoms are:
- Difficulty breathing through the nose
- A runny nose
- Postnasal drip
- Difficulty sleeping
- Facial pain or pressure
- Habitual snoring
Suffering from nasal obstruction can also negatively impact the quality of life and affect alertness, productivity, and energy levels. Since many people with nasal obstruction cannot get high-quality sleep, their risk of accidents also increases.
Causes of nasal obstruction
Nasal obstructions can occur due to a variety of reasons, including:
- Structural abnormalities of the nose: Some people suffer from congenital abnormalities of the nose that lead to nasal obstruction.These abnormalities can affect the quality of life considerably.
- Polyposis: Nasal obstruction can be caused by nasal polyps or swellings of the nasal mucosa lining.Polyposis can be associated with conditions like asthma and cystic fibrosis.
- Rhinitis: Rhinitis is one of the most common causes of nasal obstruction and can result in nasal congestion and itchiness.It can also be triggered by allergens, viral infections, or the excessive use of over-the-counter decongestants.
- Chronic rhinosinusitis: Chronic rhinosinusitis is usually characterized by infection and inflammation in the nasal passage and paranasal sinuses. This can lead to nasal obstruction, nasal discharge, facial pain, halitosis, headache, and fever.Surgical intervention may be needed in some cases.
- Neoplasia: Sinonasal tumours may also cause nasal obstruction. Such tumours account for around 10% of all head and neck cancers.Tumours can be either benign or malignant. Squamous cell carcinoma, lymphoma, adenocarcinoma, and melanoma are common types of malignant tumours that may occur in the nasal passage.
Diagnosis of nasal obstruction
The doctor may use several techniques to diagnose nasal obstruction.
- Nasal exam: In many cases, a simple physical exam to inspect external and internal structures can reveal nasal obstruction.
- Throat culture: If a person is experiencing other symptoms along with nasal obstruction, their healthcare provider may order a throat culture test.The back of the throat is swiped with a long cotton swab and sent for test checks for specific microorganisms.
- Allergy testing: Nasal obstruction may also be caused by an allergic reaction to one or more substances. If the doctor suspects any allergy, then they will recommend allergy testing.
- Computed tomography (CT) scan: The physician may order a CT scan in order to examine the nasal passage for obstructions.
- Nasal endoscopy: Nasal endoscopy is a procedure that helps look at the inside of the nasal cavity and sinus passages. A special camera is used for this purpose.
How is nasal obstruction treated?
Nasal obstruction is a common problem faced by millions across age groups. In many cases, nasal obstructions resolve by themselves within a few hours or days. In some cases, medical intervention is needed.
Treatment for nasal obstruction may include the following:
- Antibiotics (if there is a bacterial infection)
- Oral antihistamines or steroids
- Topical nasal steroids or antihistamine spray
- Radiofrequency turbinate ablation
- Turbinectomy or turbinoplasty
- Nasal valve surgery
- Image-guided endoscopic sinus surgery
How to prevent nasal obstruction?
While there are no 100% guaranteed ways to prevent the occurrence of nasal obstruction, some simple steps can be taken to minimize the occurrence:
- Avoid any known allergens.
- Perform nasal and sinus irrigation with a saline solution.
- Use a humidifier
- Avoid smoking
- Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
- Take a hot shower before bed.
- Take a steam treatment.
- Blow your nose before going to bed to avoid mucous build-up.
- Sleep on the side; avoid laying on the back.
Nasal obstruction is a common medical issue that can be effectively managed and even cured with proper medical care. If you or anyone you know has been diagnosed with nasal obstruction, it is natural to feel concerned.
At the CK Birla Hospital, we have experienced ENT specialists offering you customized cutting-edge treatment options for nasal obstruction. Their precision based approach to treatment will ensure a speedy and effective recovery. Book an appointment with Dr Anish Gupta to avail the best nasal obstruction treatment.