Nasal Obstructions

The ear, nose and throat specialists at El Camino Health will diagnose and treat nasal obstructions and other medical conditions that reduce your ability to breathe through the nose.

When Something Blocks Your Ability to Breathe Through the Nose

If you have a nasal obstruction, something is blocking your nasal cavity, making it difficult to breathe through the nose. Common causes of nasal obstruction include:

  • Enlarged turbinates. Turbinates are thin bony structures in the wall of the nose. They’re covered with a layer of tissue. If you have allergies or other nasal issues, the turbinates can swell — blocking your airflow and making it difficult to breathe through the nose. Enlarged turbinates can also cause headaches and sleep disorders.
  • Deviated (crooked) nasal septum. Inside the nose, you have bone and cartilage that separates the nostrils inside the nose — the septum. If the septum is crooked, you may have difficulty breathing through the nose, especially on one side. Other symptoms may include nosebleeds, sinus infection and noisy breathing.
  • Foreign bodies in the nose. Children sometimes put objects inside their nose, causing irritation and reducing their ability to breathe.
  • Large adenoids. Adenoids are lymphatic tissue located high in the throat, just behind the nose. If they become enlarged or swollen, they reduce the ability to breathe through the nose.
  • Swelling of the lining of the nose. Inflammation of the sinuses due to allergies or sinusitis can make breathing difficult.
  • Congenital conditions. These are conditions present at birth that narrow or block the nasal airway.

Diagnosis of Nasal Obstructions

Diagnosing nasal obstruction requires a complete medical history and a thorough physical examination. At El Camino Health, our experts perform a nasal examination with lighted scopes. They may use imaging, including CT scans and MRIs, when necessary. They may also recommend an allergy evaluation.

Relief and Treatment for Nasal Obstructions

After determining the cause of your nasal obstruction and breathing difficulty, your doctor will determine the best course of treatment.

  • Medication and nasal sprays. Initially, medicine or sprays may be prescribed to reduce swelling in the nose caused by enlarged turbinates and underlying allergy problems.
  • Turbinate surgery or other procedures. Sometimes surgery is performed to change the position of the enlarged turbinates or to remove excess turbinate tissue. Radiofrequency or laser ablation can also be used to shrink excess turbinate tissue.
  • Procedures to remove foreign objects. If children put a foreign object in their nose and it becomes stuck, our ENT doctors have instruments that can remove the object or suction it out.
  • Treatment for enlarged adenoids. If enlarged adenoids obstruct breathing, your doctor may prescribe a nasal spray to reduce swelling or perform surgery to remove the adenoids. At El Camino Health, we perform most adenoidectomies on an outpatient basis.
  • Surgery for a deviated septum or congenital conditions. If a deviated (crooked) septum or a congenital condition reduces your ability to breathe through the nose, doctors may consider surgery to open the airway and help you breathe more easily.