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Nasal Obstruction & Congestion

by , last modified on 4/13/21.


There are a number of causes for a person's inability to breathe through their nose. This issue affects toddlers to adults and often affects a person's speech making them sound congested or nasally (also known as hyponasal speech). In severe cases, persistent mouth-breathing and even dental malocclusion may occur if chronic. Among the most common causes of nasal obstruction and congestion are:

Rarely, masses such as nasal polyps and even cancer may cause symptoms of nasal obstruction. As such, an initial important part of any examination investigating a person's nasal obstruction is nasal endoscopy. Nasal endoscopy enables the physician to look into the back half of the nose which is not able to be seen by just looking into the nose with a flashlight. Beyond the examination, an exact description of a person's complaints is helpful to determine what type of treatment whether medical or surgical would be most beneficial. The most common scenarios are described below:

If the patient is a young child, click here for more information.

"I can't breathe through my nose mainly one side."

"I can't breath through one side of my nose when I lay down on that side. When I turn, it opens up, but than the other side gets blocked up."

"I can't breath through my nose whenever I lay down. When I stand up, I can breath again."

"I can't breathe through either side very well all the time."

"I can't breathe through my nose only during the spring and fall."

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"I have a cold right now and have terrible nasal congestion and can't breath through my nose at all."

  • Answer: In this scenario, turbinate hypertrophy along with generalized nasal mucosal lining swelling is the reason. Treatment really is time and medications to help with the symptoms until the cold passes. Rhinitis medicamentosa is possible if one has been using nasal decongestant sprays frequently for more then a few days.

"I can't breath through my nose very well and it has been slowly getting worse over time. I also have difficulty smelling and tasting foods."

"My nose is very narrow and when I try to breath in quickly, the sides of my nose collapse inward preventing me from breathing through my nose very well unless I inhale very slowly."

  • Answer: In this scenario, the problem may be due to a narrow internal nasal valve. This surgery traditionally requires a functional rhinoplasty in which the narrow nose is widened. Watch a video to see how this may be corrected here. However, a non-invasive treatment called Vivaer can also address a narrow internal nasal valve.

If nasal obstruction or congestion is affecting your life, please call our office for an appointment.

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