by Robert Sporter, M.D.
Nasal congestion, or difficulty breathing through the nose, is a very common issue affecting many patients. Problems breathing through the nose can be partial or total, or be during certain times of the year (seasonal), or all year-round (perennial). Seasonal nasal congestion may be due to certain allergens (particles that cause allergies) present during specific times of the year. For example, a stuffy nose in the spring months may be due to tree pollen allergy. Congestion that is present all year long, or occurs intermittently throughout the year, may be due to year-round allergies, such as allergies to dust mites, pet dander, or mold. Nasal congestion can also be due to structural issues physically blocking airflow through the nose. For example, if the nasal septum (the partition that separates the two nasal passages) is off to one side, patients feel that their nose is blocked on that side; this is called a deviated septum. A deviated septum can be the result of problems from development (congenital) or trauma/fractures (acquired). Other patients suffer from nasal polyps – inflammatory tissue growths that may partially or completely block one or both sides of the nose. In some cases, other structures of the nose block breathing and contribute to congestion, snoring and even poor sleep.
At ENT and Allergy, our board-certified allergists and otolaryngologists work together to diagnose and treat nasal breathing problems. Allergy skin testing can identify your allergic sensitivities immediately. Visualizing the structures within your nose (nasal endoscopy) can allow doctors to directly evaluate and treat your nasal passages. Some patients benefit from a CT scan for a comprehensive evaluation. After evaluation, you and your doctor will make a customized treatment plan. Nasal allergies can be treated by avoiding allergic triggers, taking medications, and by making your body less allergic with immunotherapy (“allergy shots”). Some patients with structural nasal and sinus problems can benefit from surgery, whereas others may breathe better after having a procedure performed in the office.