For many people, difficulty breathing through the nose is a frustrating issue that can significantly impact their quality of life on a daily basis. There are many medical conditions — such as environmental allergies — that may contribute to nasal obstruction, but in cases where the responsible factor is an abnormality in nasal anatomy, surgical intervention may be required in order to adequately improve nasal breathing.
One of the most common abnormalities is a deviated nasal septum. The septum is an internal structure in the nose composed of cartilage and bone that separates the left side from the right side. In some individuals, the septum is deviated to one or both sides, narrowing the nasal airway and creating difficulty breathing through the nose. This is corrected with a treatment called septoplasty, in which deviated portions of bone and cartilage are removed through a small incision inside the nose, while leaving enough behind to maintain the shape and support of the nose.
Another common cause of nasal obstruction is collapse of a structure known as the nasal valve. This is an area in each side of the nose that may be narrowed by abnormal anatomy, and is prone to collapse if the cartilage in this area is weak. This structure can be widened by a number of surgical techniques depending on which portion of the nasal valve is causing the obstruction.
Nasal trauma can cause difficulty breathing through the nose by creating deformities in the nasal bones or cartilage that narrow the nasal airways. If treated within the first week or two following the injury, a simple procedure to move the displaced bone or cartilage back into the appropriate position may be adequate to return nasal breathing to normal, but older injuries which have already healed may require a more extensive procedure to correct the deformity.
Finally, there are structures in the nose known as turbinates that can become enlarged and create symptoms of nasal congestion. It is the turbinates that commonly swell and cause congestion when you have a cold or an allergic reaction, but these can also become chronically enlarged to a point where surgery is the only option to adequately reduce their size in order to improve nasal breathing.
Although many people think of rhinoplasty (or “nose job”) as a cosmetic procedure, this term simply refers to reshaping the nose, and this is often performed for the purpose of opening the nasal airways and improving nasal breathing. Some patients who have had a prior septoplasty and continue to have difficulty breathing through the nose may have an additional issue that has been overlooked, and these patients often require revision septoplasty and/or rhinoplasty to adequately improve nasal breathing. Because nasal obstruction is a medical issue, these procedures are often covered by most insurance companies.
Dr. Cain and Dr. Richardson are both experts in nasal anatomy and nasal surgery who have extensive specialized training in diagnosing and treating the causes of nasal obstruction.
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