Nasal Turbinates: how they cause obstructed breathing.
Nasal Turbinates can impair your breathing
When patients notice difficulty breathing through their nose, there may be any one of a number of problems occurring. This may include:
1) Nasal allergies
2) Deviated Septum
3) Collapse from previous surgery or trauma (internal valve collapse)
4) Nasal Turbinate Enlargement
Nasal allergies are most commonly treated with various types of nasal sprays, including nasal steroid sprays (i.e. Flonase, Veramyst, etc.). Cold and allergy medications can also help to alleviate allergy symptoms. Some patients even go for allergy testing in order to determine specific environmental allergies that they may have.
When allergy symptoms have been properly treated, but the inability to breath through the nasal airway still exists, then there is likely an anatomic reason for this difficulty in breathing. Commonly, deviation of the body of the nasal septum will block the air passages. Septal deviation is easily treated with a surgical septoplasty, where the obstructing portion of the septum is removed. Septal deviation can occur alone, or in combination with collapse of the internal nasal valve. Nasal valve collapse occurs when the upper nasal cartilages fall into the airway and sit too close to the nasal septum. This narrows the internal airway and severely restricts the amount of airflow through there. Nasal valve collapse can develop with growth of the nose. However, it more commonly occurs as an effect of previous rhinoplasty surgery when key components of the nasal structural support have been removed. Nasal valve collapse is fixable, and usually only requires repair with the placement of small cartilage grafts (i.e. spreader grafts).
The nasal turbinates help to filter and humidify the air that gets inhaled through the nose. Although they serve an important function in nasal breathing, they too can get to be too large and can actually obstruct the nasal breathing. Most people have a daily variation in the size of the nasal turbinates. In fact, turbinates can vary in size multiple times over the course of a day. When turbinate enlargement fails to improve with conservative measures (i.e. nasal sprays), then surgical reduction may be indicated. This can include moving enlarged or fractured turbinate bones (turbinate outfracture), removing redundant or boggy mucosa, or even turbinate coblation. Attention to the turbinates can sometimes make all the difference for patients who are struggling to move air through their nose.