Having a stuffy nose happens to most of us at some point, usually occurring alongside a cold or the flu. But for some people, nasal and sinus congestion is far more common, with symptoms that interfere with breathing on a regular basis.
At ENT Specialists, our team helps patients in Salt Lake City, Murray, Draper, Tooele, and West Jordan, Utah, find solutions to “unclog” their nasal passages and breathe better. In this post, learn what could be causing your chronic nasal congestion and what we can do to help.
Nasal congestion: risk factors
Lots of issues can make you more prone to nasal congestion.
Nasal anatomy is surprisingly complex, and because the nasal passages are so narrow, even a small anatomical difference can interfere with breathing and cause congestion symptoms. For instance, if the separating wall (septum) between your nostrils is even slightly off, it can interfere with airflow. Likewise, when tiny bones inside your nose (called turbinate bones) are too large, they can cause breathing problems.
Nasal polyps are fleshy, noncancerous growths that form in your sinuses and nasal passages. While tiny polyps may not cause any symptoms, larger polyps can cause congestion, make it difficult to breathe, and even affect your sense of smell.
About a third of American adults suffer from allergies, a common cause of congestion. Allergic reactions happen when you’re exposed to a trigger (allergen), like pollen or mildew. Your immune system responds, causing inflammation in your airways. Without treatment, you can wind up with chronic, nearly constant congestion.
Chronic sinus infections
Also called chronic sinusitis, chronic or recurrent sinus infections are another possible cause of nasal congestion. Chronic sinusitis often causes other symptoms, too, like:
- Facial pain or pressure
- Post-nasal drip
- Thick mucus
- Persistent cough or sore throat
- Chronic bad breath
Symptoms can even occur during sleep, leaving you feeling groggy and unrested during the day.
Pollution, smoke, and fumes can irritate nasal membranes, causing acute congestion. If the exposures continue, irritation can lead to inflammation and chronic congestion symptoms.
Many people reach for over-the-counter decongestants to clear up their symptoms, but when used too frequently or without a doctor’s care, these products can make nasal congestion worse. Some blood pressure medicines can also increase your risk of nasal congestion. During your visit, be sure to let your provider know about all the medications you take, including supplements.
Large tonsils or adenoids can also lead to chronic congestion. Located at the back of your throat, your adenoids and tonsils play roles in your immune function, but if they grow too large, they can make it difficult to breathe through your nose. Tonsil and adenoid problems are very common during childhood, but they can affect adults, too.
Nasal congestion can be a symptom of other chronic diseases, like cystic fibrosis. Cystic fibrosis causes your airways to produce thick mucus that makes it hard to breathe.
Relief for nasal congestion
Nasal congestion can definitely be treated, with the type of treatment dependent on the underlying cause. Before recommending any treatment, our team performs a comprehensive exam and reviews your medical history.
Sometimes, all it takes is a little TLC and home remedies to relieve congestion and feel better. Depending on your symptoms and the cause of your congestion, we may recommend:
- Humidifiers to help moisten room air
- Nasal decongestants
- Saline spray
- Warm compresses for facial pain or pressure
- Nose drops
- Oral decongestants
- Antihistamine medicines
Often, a combination of treatments offers optimal relief.
When congestion is caused by a structural problem like polyps or a deviated septum, we may recommend an outpatient medical procedure to correct the problem. Our team uses minimally invasive techniques to enable you to recover quickly — typically within a few weeks.
If you have chronic congestion, we can find a solution that works for you. To learn more, book an appointment online or over the phone with the team at ENT Specialists today.