Enlarged turbinates are a common cause of nasal congestion.

The turbinates are normal structures inside the nose.  Most people have three turbinates on each side of the nose.  They are called:

  • Inferior turbinate
  • Middle turbinate
  • Superior turbinate

The inferior turbinates are typically the largest of the three.  They are located near the bottom of the nasal passages.  The inferior turbinates are thought to help warm, humidify, and filter the air we breathe through our noses.  When the turbinates become too large, they can make it difficult to breathe through the nose.
The turbinates are made of bone and soft tissue.  Both the bone and the soft tissue portions can become enlarged.  In most patients, enlargement of the soft tissue part of the turbinate is the major problem when the turbinates become swollen.  When the turbinates are large, they are called hypertrophic turbinates. 

What types of symptoms do enlarged turbinates cause?

Most patients with severe nasal congestion find that their symptoms affect their daily quality-of-life.  Some patients who have nasal stuffiness feel almost like they have a constant cold.  Many people also notice they get very stuffy when they go to bed.  This can make it hard to get restful sleep.

It is important to examine the nose carefully to figure out why someone has nasal congestion.  In our office, we will use a small instrument called a nasal endoscope to look inside the nose.  The endoscope is like a very small flashlight with a camera on its tip.  This allows us to look inside your nose to look for things that are causing blockage.  The picture on the left shows a patient having a nasal endoscopy in the office.  Most patients feel a little tickle inside the nose during the procedure.  The procedure is rarely painful.

After making the diagnosis, your doctor can discuss treatment options for you.  Many patients with enlarged turbinates get better with medications.  For example, nasal steroid sprays can help decrease some of the swelling and can help patients breathe better through the nose.  Patients who do not get better with medications can find relief with turbinate reduction surgery.

For more information about turbinate hypertrophy…

Information on our website about turbinate reduction.

Information on our website about septoplasty.  Septoplasty is another procedure used to treat nasal congestion.

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