June 16, 2016

Nose & Sinus Disorders – Stuffy Nose

Nose & Sinus Disorders

Nose & Sinus Disorders causing a stuffy nose are diagnosed and treated in the offices at Peak ENT.

The Nose is an amazing part of our anatomy that has multiple functions, including:

Smell. This sense is tied to so many aspects of our lives. Smell is hardwired into our emotions and memories. Smell helps us detect potentially harmful situations and avoid these. Even most of what we taste is actually due to our sense of smell.

A filter. Starting with the little hairs in our nostrils, and continuing with the layer of mucus coating the nasal cavity, our nose helps filter and trap particles we breathe, thereby keeping these potentially harmful materials out of our lungs!

A heater. As air flows through the nose, it is warmed closer to body temperature. Warm air is gentler on the lungs than cold air.

A humidifier. The nose can take outside air and increase its relative humidity to 95% or higher by the time it reaches the throat. Moist air is much gentler on the lungs than dry air.

The Sinuses are hollow, air-filled spaces inside the skull and facial skeleton which are lined with mucosa: a thin layer of tissue that secretes mucus. The sinuses drain through small openings into the nose. No one knows for sure why we even have sinuses, but there are several theories, including:

They make our heads lighter and less “front-heavy.” Our necks appreciate this!

They provide resonance for our voice.

They offer a sort of “crumple zone” against trauma, thus preserving our brain at the expense of our face!

While working in harmony with our body most of the time, the nose and sinuses are on the “front line” in terms of exposure to potentially harmful substances in the environment, and are prone to many disorders as a result. Additionally, as a consequence of its central and very prominent position on our face, the nose is particularly susceptible to injury.

Common Nose & Sinus Disorders We Treat:

Chronic Rhinitis: persistent inflammation and swelling of the nasal lining causing symptoms of congestion, runny nose, thickened mucus, and postnasal drip. In severe cases, this can also impact the sense of smell. A variety of causes may contribute to this condition, including allergies, nasal dryness, reactions to chemicals or other irritants, and even hormone changes.

Allergic Rhinitis: inflammation of the nasal lining caused by an allergic reaction typically to small particles called allergens that are inhaled into the nose. Symptoms include runny nose, sneezing, nasal congestion, postnasal drip, itchy nose, itchy and watery eyes, headaches, and scratchy throat. Symptoms may be seasonal or year-round. Allergies can develop at any point during one’s lifetime. Peak ENT offers testing for inhaled and food allergies. Testing can help determine if you are a good candidate for immunotherapy, a method of desensitizing your body and reducing its allergic response to these substances.

Nasal Polyps: gelatinous “bags” of swollen nasal lining can occur in susceptible patients as a result of chronic inflammation in the nose and may be associated with allergies, chronic sinus blockage/infection, asthma, and in some patients a sensitivity to aspirin and/or non steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs). Polyps cause significant nasal congestion, blocked nasal breathing, stuffy nose and loss of smell. Extensive nasal polyps often require a combined approach including sinus surgery as well as medical management.

Deviated Septum: a condition in which the nasal septum, or wall that divides the inside of the nose in half, is bent, causing blockage of one or both nasal passages. The main symptom patients experience is difficulty breathing through the nose. A deviated septum may also contribute to other symptoms, including sinus infections, nosebleeds, nasal dryness, snoring and headaches. In some cases, medical treatment using nasal moisturizers as well as a nasal steroid spray can provide adequate symptom relief. In other cases, a surgical procedure called septoplasty may be beneficial.

Turbinate Hypertrophy: The nasal turbinates are folds of tissue inside the nose attached to the outer wall of the nasal cavity. They help warm and moisturize the air we breathe. The turbinates also readily swell in response to inflammation, and are the reason we feel congested when we have allergies, a cold, or a sinus infection. In some patients, the turbinates become chronically swollen, contributing to symptoms of nasal obstruction. Attempts are made to identify and treat any underlying causes of inflammation. If symptoms persist, a procedure called turbinate reduction may be helpful. This procedure is routinely performed with a septoplasty when a deviated septum is present, but may also be performed as a stand-alone procedure. In adults, a turbinate reduction can be performed quickly and with minimal discomfort under local anesthesia in the office.

Nasal Deformity: This can occur due to trauma, or simply as a result of one’s development and growth. In severe cases, nasal deformity can have functional consequences for nasal breathing. In other patients, the concern may be primarily aesthetic. A surgical procedure called rhinoplasty can improve functional issues as well as aesthetic ones.

Chronic or Recurrent Sinusitis: Symptoms of sinusitis may include nasal congestion, thick drainage from the nose or into the throat, pressure in the face, headaches, fatigue, bad breath, cough, and loss of smell. Chronic sinusitis refers to sinus inflammation that causes symptoms lasting more than 3 months. Recurrent sinusitis refers to symptoms that occur on an intermittent but frequent basis. Symptoms typically last 10 or more days, then completely resolve in between episodes. Causes of sinusitis may include infection, allergic or nonallergic inflammation, irritant exposure, or narrowed/blocked sinus passages. Often there is more than one cause present in any given patient. A thorough examination by one of the physicians at Peak ENT can help determine the underlying cause(s) of your sinusitis, thus allowing an individualized treatment plan. Recommended treatments may include antibiotics, anti-inflammatory medications, or surgery to open blocked sinus passages. In appropriate candidates, a simple in-office procedure can provide substantial relief.