Nasal obstruction is a common reason patients are referred to an otolaryngologist and can be associated with a wide variety of disease processes affecting the nose. The challenge for the physician is to correctly determine the reason for the obstruction and recommend the appropriate management. Depending on the cause this may include medical or surgical therapy or perhaps both in combination.
Obstruction occurring in combination with facial pain or pressure and discolored discharge may in fact be a symptom of a sinus infection requiring treatment addressing these structures as opposed to only the nose itself (for a complete description of sinusitis click here). Similarly, patients may have obstruction in conjunction with an itchy nose and eyes, and clear post nasal drip which may be a sign of an allergic problem (for more information on allergic rhinitis click here).
When a patient is unable to breathe through their nose this may also be a symptom of an anatomic abnormality of one or several parts of the nose. This may contribute to sinusitis, snoring and/or obstructive sleep apnea. These patients may have a deviated septum (the midline structure which separates the two sides of your nasal cavity), enlarged turbinates (mucosal lined projections in the nose that serve to warm and humidify air) or a narrow nasal valve.
Crooked septum with several spurs of bone blocking the nasal airway