Nasal Obstruction

A nasal obstruction is a blockage of the nasal cavity that impedes the airflow in and out of the nose, causing difficulty breathing. The blockage may affect one or both nasal passages.

What Causes Nasal Obstruction?

There are many factors that might contribute to nasal obstruction. These include nasal inflammation brought on by allergies or sinus conditions, sudden changes in pressure, or certain medications. These blockages are temporary, but can recur if the condition is chronic. Other times, the blockage may be the result of structural abnormalities such as nasal polyps, septal deviation, turbinate enlargement, oversized adenoids, and congenital defects such as choanal atresia (a blockage at the back of the nose caused by overgrown tissue or bone). Foreign objects in the nasal cavity can also cause obstruction.

Nasal obstructions that occur seasonally are usually indicative of allergies, while those that affect only one side of the nose are typically the result of anatomical causes.

How nasal obstructions are treated depends on their cause.

Diagnosing and Treating Nasal Obstruction

You’ll need a thorough medical examination in order to diagnose the cause of your nasal obstruction. Your doctor will use an endoscope (a tiny, flexible camera) to look at your nasal passages, and may order diagnostic imaging tests (X-rays, CT scans, MRIs) or have you undergo allergy testing.

Several medications are available for treating nasal inflammation, including antihistamines, decongestants, and nasal sprays. Allergy sufferers may benefit from immunotherapy (allergy shots). Surgery is a frequent option to improve breathing, and may be recommended for removing polyps, shrinking the turbinates, removing the adenoids, or straightening a deviated septum.