Chronic Nasal Congestion
The term “nasal congestion” simply refers to a stuffy nose, but it is not always a simple condition. Many different problems can cause chronic nasal congestion – and it can lead to other unhealthy or uncomfortable conditions, including:
- Sinus headaches
- Runny nose
- Itchy eyes
- Difficulty breathing
Causes of Chronic Nasal Congestion
Since the swelling of the nasal passages and the mucus and fluid buildup associated with nasal congestion are generally symptomatic of an underlying condition, it is important that the source condition be identified and treated. These causes and conditions fall into several categories.
The sources of allergies are many:
- Outdoor allergies can be triggered by certain grasses and trees, pollen, and all manner of airborne particles. For many people, they are seasonal allergies.
- Indoor allergies can come from dust mites, insect droppings, pet dander, even certain chemicals used to clean a home.
When someone comes in contact with an allergen (a substance to which he or she is allergic), the immune system produces a hormone called a “histamine,” which attempts to rid the body of the “foreign invader” by causing coughs, sneezes, watery eyes, etc.
The optimal treatment plan would consist of allergy testing to find the exact allergen, then treating that specifically, by one of three methods, as determined by your doctor:
- Avoiding the allergen
- Medication (antihistamines)
This category can include caustic chemicals, smoke, perfumes, and tobacco. These irritants usually hit us very quickly, causing a stuffy and runny nose, watery eyes, and discomfort. The effect is usually temporary, and the symptoms subside when the irritant is no longer present.
More Serious Causes
Allergies are certainly annoying and inconvenient, and finding and handling the allergen causing the symptoms is optimal. However, they can often be controlled with histamines enough to be “livable.”
The effects of irritants are temporary and last only as long as we remain in contact with the irritant.
However, several conditions warrant greater attention, although all can be performed as an out-patient:
- Deviated septum – The septum divides the nostrils. When it is out of place, either from trauma or having grown that way, the air passageway can be blocked, causing drainage and breathing problems. During septoplasty surgery, the septum is repositioned, so it is straight, opening the nostrils for proper airflow.
- Sinusitis – Sinusitis is an infection that causes the tissue lining the sinuses to become inflamed. The treatment, called “balloon sinuplasty,” is a 20-minute procedure in which your doctor will insert an endoscope (a catheter with a light and small) camera for visibility, and a catheter containing a tiny deflated balloon. The balloon is inflated to relieve the pressure in the sinus cavity, allowing draining of the mucus.
- Turbinate enlargement – The turbinates are three bony ridges inside each side of the nose. If the lowest turbinate becomes swollen, it blocks the nasal cavity, causing congestion. During turbinate reduction surgery, an endoscope is inserted in the nose and, through an incision, excess bone and, possibly, some surrounding tissue will be removed correct the structure and remove blockage.