Nasal congestion is something we can all relate to – whether it’s caused by a common cold, viral illness, allergies, sinus infection or even changes in air temperature and humidity levels. Also known as a stuffy nose, nasal congestion refers to a blockage of the nasal passages that disrupts normal breathing and mucus drainage. It occurs when your nasal tissues swell due to an inflammation of the blood vessels. This inflammation can be further exacerbated by excess mucus production.
But what exactly is “chronic” nasal congestion? It’s defined as congestion in the nasal passages that lasts six weeks or longer. Unlike most cases of a stuffy nose, chronic congestion is often due to underlying anatomical factors or allergies that trigger ongoing or long-term inflammation of the nasal tissues.
What symptoms are associated with chronic nasal congestion?
Chronic nasal congestion affects more than just your nose and breathing. Symptoms resulting from this condition include:
- Recurring sinus infections (sinusitis)
- Reduced sense of smell or taste
- Postnasal drip
- Facial pain
What’s to blame for chronic nasal congestion?
While some cases of nasal congestion are due to infections or temporary exposure to environmental irritants like tobacco smoke, cases of long-term, ongoing nasal congestion are commonly linked to allergies or anatomical factors, including genetic and inflammatory conditions, such as:
- Nasal polyps – Soft, non-cancerous redundancies of chronically swollen nasal membranes that develop on the lining of the nasal passages and can range in size from small to large. They can block nasal breathing and prevent normal sinus drainage.
- Turbinate hypertrophy – A condition characterized by chronic swelling of the turbinates, which are bony and soft tissue structures located in the nasal passages.
- Deviated septum – A condition characterized by a crooked wall of cartilage between the two nostrils that can develop as we grow or be the result of a nose injury or normal aging.
- Allergic rhinitis – Inflammation of the membranes due to an exposure to allergens, such as pollen or mold.
How can I treat my chronic nasal congestion in Atlanta?
Getting rid of chronic nasal congestion is more difficult than clearing up a normal stuffy nose. While some cases may be improved with over the counter medications, topical nasal steroid sprays, allergy medications, allergen avoidance or antibiotics, long-term relief often necessitates more coordinated treatments. This is because medications will simply not be effective at fixing the underlying causes of the congestion for some patients. A surprising fact about nasal congestion treatment is that overuse of over the counter topical sprays for a stuffy nose can actually lead to inflammation that prolongs nasal congestion.
At Sinus Center of Atlanta, we specialize in diagnosing the underlying causes of chronic nasal congestion and tailoring treatment plans designed to the needs of each patient. Our team of top ear, nose and throat physicians who are also trained in allergy treatment offer numerous treatment options that can deliver long-term relief from chronic nasal congestion, including:
- Turbinate Reduction – A minimally invasive procedure that can be performed in-office to shrink the size of enlarged nasal turbinates. This can be done with radio frequency energy or other techniques. The procedure, which takes only minutes to perform, results in a 50% reduction of nasal blockage within a week, according to clinical studies.
- Allergy Testing & Treatment with Allergy Drops – Allergy testing helps to pinpoint causes of allergic reactions that may be contributing to chronic nasal congestion. Once these triggers have been identified, allergy shots or drops (sublingual immunotherapy) may be recommended to build up the body’s tolerance and desensitize it to certain allergens.
- Endoscopic Sinus Surgery – A surgery that involves the use of a small endoscope in order to navigate specialized instruments in the nasal cavities and remove small amounts of obstructing bone and tissue (such as nasal polyps) that are causing congestion.
- Septoplasty – A surgical procedure that repositions and realigns a deviated nasal septum to open up the nasal airway and improve breathing. The surgery is usually done on an outpatient basis and most patients report a significant improvement in breathing function within three to six weeks.
- Polypectomy – A surgical procedure that involves the removal of enlarged nasal polyps from the lining of the nasal passages to improve breathing function. It is performed entirely through the nostrils and sometimes is done as part of an endoscopic sinus surgery using computer image guidance for greater precision.
While a stuffy nose once in a while is not out of the ordinary, chronic nasal congestion can significantly impact your quality of life if left untreated and should not be ignored. Not sure how severe your nasal problem is? Take our sino-nasal quiz to see how your symptoms add up.
If you’re experiencing long-term congestion that you can’t seem to get rid of, don’t muddle through another day of headaches and compromised breathing. Contact the Sinus Center of Atlanta or fill out our schedule appointment form today to request a consultation at one of our three convenient locations in the Atlanta area. We look forward to restoring your breathing and improving your overall health.