Nasal obstruction can be caused by a number of different conditions. These include seasonal allergies, a deviated septum or chronic sinus disease.
Seasonal allergies are common and affect many people. The medical term for seasonal allergies is allergic rhinitis, which means inflammation of the nose due to allergies. This condition can cause trouble breathing through the nose, runny nose, drainage in the throat, sneezing and nasal itching. In patients with allergic rhinitis, treatments are aimed at reducing the allergic response in the nose. This is usually done with nasal sprays, oral antihistamines such as Allegra or Claritin, or allergy shots (immunotherapy). Your ENT doctor (otolaryngologist) can help you decide on the best treatment for you. It is especially important to visit your ENT because sometimes these treatments are not enough to alleviate the symptoms. In these cases, your ENT may offer you either a simple in-office procedure such as cryotherapy or radiofrequency turbinate ablation to help control your symptoms. In other cases, a surgical procedure may be the only way to control your symptoms. Only ENTs perform these procedures, so be sure to visit your ENT to find the best treatment.
Many people don't know there are many causes of nonallergic rhinitis, which is inflammation of the nose that is not due to allergies. These conditions can cause the exact same symptoms as allergic rhinitis, such as trouble breathing through the nose, runny nose, drainage in the throat, sneezing and nasal itching. The treatment of nonallergic rhinitis can be quite different from treatment of allergic rhinitis. While some of the treatments can be similar, such as nasal steroid sprays, others are less likely to be effective, like oral antihistamines and allergy shots. Again, in these cases, you may benefit from an in-office procedure such as cryotherapy or even a surgical procedure. Your ENT can discuss these options with you.
Another major cause of nasal obstruction is a deviated septum. The septum is the middle structure that separates the nose from right and left. Many people have a deviated septum, and in lots of people, a deviated septum causes no symptoms. But in some people, a deviated septum may make it much harder to breathe through the nose. Nasal sprays can sometimes improve the nasal breathing enough to avoid any procedures. However, many people continue to experience nasal obstruction. In these cases, your ENT may discuss procedures such as a septoplasty and turbinate reduction with you.
Before any treatment, it is wise to make sure no other condition is affecting the nose such as chronic sinus disease. Your ENT may perform a nasal endoscopy – a procedure that uses a camera to look at the inside of your nose where your sinuses drain – in the clinic to make sure you don't have sinus disease before recommending any treatments. In fact, this is one of the most important benefits of seeing an ENT before being treated for your nasal obstruction.