Nasal obstruction is a fairly common problem. Patients with nasal obstruction have trouble breathing through their nose. This can force them to breathe through their mouth, leading to a sensation of a dry mouth. In many patients, these symptoms get worse at night when they are lying flat. This can cause them to have less restful sleep.
Nasal obstruction can be caused by a number of problems. For example, things like allergies can cause nasal obstruction. Another very common cause of nasal obstruction is narrow nasal passages. Often, narrow nasal passages are the result of problems with the nasal septum and turbinates.
The nasal septum and the turbinates are normal parts of the nose. The nasal septum is the structure that divides your nasal passages into the right and left sides. A deviated septum refers to a septum that is crooked.
The turbinates are also inside the nose, near the septum. There is usually space between the septum and turbinates to allow air to pass through the nose. The turbinates can cause nasal obstruction if they are too large. There are several different types of turbinates in the nose. The ones that most commonly affect airflow are called the inferior turbinates.
The septum is made of cartilage and bone. The cartilage and bone of the septum are lined by a thin membrane called mucosa. This layer acts like a layer of skin for the inside of the nose. This layer covers and protects the cartilage and bone. It also helps to keep the inside of the nose moist
When the septum is deviated, one or both sides of the nose can become blocked. In these instances, surgery can help correct the deviation and improve airflow.
The CT scan and picture of the nose shown below demonstrate show examples of a deviated nasal septum. Both of these images point to a deviated nasal septum on the left side of the nose.
The turbinates are structures on the side wall of the inside of the nose. They project into the nasal passages as ridges of tissue. The turbinates help warm and moisturize air as it flows through the nose. The inferior turbinates can block nasal airflow when they are enlarged. The pictures below demonstrate how the inferior turbinates can block airflow when they are enlarged and touch the nasal septum.
The turbinates are made of bone and soft tissue. Either the bone or the soft tissue can become enlarged. In most patients, enlargement of the soft tissue part of the turbinate is the major problem when the turbinates become swollen. When the turbinates are large, they are called hypertrophic turbinates
As with any surgical procedure, septal and turbinate procedures have associated risks. Although the chance of a complication occurring is very small, it is important that you understand the potential complications and ask your surgeon about any concerns you may have