The nose is a small space and even small imperfections within it can lead to problems. Causes of nasal congestion can be divided into three categories: inflammatory, structural, and functional. Inflammatory causes of nasal congestion include allergies, the common cold, and environmental irritants. The most common source of a structural problem is a deviated septum or enlarged turbinates. Turbinates are normal cylindrical shaped structures in the nose that help warm and process air but easily become enlarged and problematic. Functional problems that can lead to nasal blockage include collapse of the nasal walls or narrowing of critical flow areas within the nose called valves. Additional sources of nasal problems include nasal fracture, polyps, and other masses. Problems originating in the sinuses can also spread into the nose. It is not always obvious at first whether the origin of a problem is the nose or sinuses so a thorough evaluation is critical in getting to the root of the problem.MAKE AN APPOINTMENT
The first step in diagnosing your nasal problems is having a thorough consultation with you so we can go through a timeline of your symptoms and learn more about your medical history. After that we will conduct a thorough an exam during which we check the nose using a very small scope—about the width of a spaghetti noodle—that is placed in the nostrils to look for swelling, polyps, a deviated septum, enlarged turbinates and other abnormalities. If there is an active infection, we can also check for bacteria with a Q-Tip culture. Since hay fever is often a cause of nasal congestion we commonly test for allergies as well. In addition, sinus problems and nasal problems often occur in conjunction with each other so in some cases we get a CT scan of the sinuses which, like the allergy test, is performed in our office.
Since the sinuses are surrounded by bone, a CT scan, which is taken in our office, provides the clearest, most comprehensive view. We review the scan with you in detail, pointing out which sinuses are swollen and whether there are any structural issues contributing to your particular symptoms.