Turbinates are natural structures in your nose that sometimes swell, making it hard to breathe. If you have a chronic stuffy nose, you may have a condition called turbinate hypertrophy. At Advanced Sinus and Allergy Center in Park Ridge, Illinois, board-certified Sinus Specialist Dr. Nadia Caballero provides expert diagnosis and treatment of this condition in a compassionate environment. To Breathe Better and Enjoy Life Again, call or schedule a consultation online today.
Turbinates are folds of soft tissue that cover small bones lining your nasal passages. There are 3 turbinates in each nostril: the inferior (lower) turbinate, the middle turbinate and the superior (upper) turbinate. The turbinates humidify, warm, and filter the air you breathe and act as the “thermostats” of the nose. Although the middle turbinates can also contribute to nasal obstruction, it is the inferior turbinates that play the main role in nasal blockage.
The inferior turbinates are composed of highly vascular tissue and are constantly changing in size in an alternating fashion as part of the nasal cycle. This phenomenon occurs in normal patients without being noticed. However, in patients with inferior turbinate hypertrophy, the nasal cycle can be noticeable and bothersome.
Hypertrophy is another word for enlargement. Turbinate hypertrophy occurs when your turbinates enlarge due to a medical issue or condition. As a result, you may have a chronic stuffy nose, feelings of pressure in your nose and face, and other uncomfortable symptoms.
Common signs and symptoms of turbinate hypertrophy include:
Enlarged or aerated middle turbinates can also block normal sinus drainage, causing ongoing sinus problems like recurrent acute sinusitis.
Certain conditions like allergies and environmental irritants can cause inferior turbinate hypertrophy. Alcoholic beverages like wine can also cause the turbinates to swell. Some patients also develop compensatory inferior turbinate hypertrophy to “fill in” the space caused by a deviated septum to the opposite side. Hormonal changes due to thyroid disorders or pregnancy may also cause turbinates to become hypertrophic. Some medications can also cause turbinate hypertrophy, like prolonged use of decongestant nasal sprays like Afrin® (Oxymetazoline) or NeoSynephrine® (phenylephrine). Some blood pressure medications that cause vasodilation like hydralazine, minoxidil, and ACE (Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme) inhibitors can also cause the turbinates to become swollen.
At Advanced Sinus and Allergy Center, Dr. Caballero bases your treatment plan on your condition and the severity of the turbinate enlargement. Initially, she may recommend medications, including topical corticosteroids like Rhinocort® and Nasonex ® to treat the symptoms of your clogged, stuffy nose.
If your symptoms do not improve with medical therapy, you may need surgery to allow you to breathe clearly again. There are several options to address inferior turbinate hypertrophy. They include radiofrequency ablation, electrocautery ablation, laser turbinoplasty, and submucous resection using a microdebrider to reduce the size of your turbinates. In some cases, the turbinates may also be out fractured to reposition the location of the bone and create more space in the nose. More aggressive techniques where the anterior one-third of the inferior turbinate is resected (anterior turbinoplasty) are not very commonly performed due to concerns for empty nose syndrome (ENS).
Some turbinate reduction procedures can be safely performed in the office. You’ll typically be anesthetized with nasal sprays and an injection in your turbinates for this surgery. During this treatment, Dr. Caballero inserts a thin, lighted tube called an endoscope in your nose to visualize the entire length of the turbinate. She then makes an incision to expose the bone under your turbinate, and then uses a small machine called a microdebrider to remove excess tissue under the surface, without disruption the turbinate lining. She may also cauterize prominent tissue at the end of the turbinates.
The treatment typically takes 1 hour. You should be able to go home the same day.
If you’ve been troubled by a blocked, stuffy nose and are ready to Breathe Better and Enjoy Life Again, call or schedule a consultation online today with Advanced Sinus and Allergy Center.