The Dynamics of Nasal Breathing
Let's talk about breathing through your nose. The ability to breathe well through your nose depends on two structures inside your nose: the nasal septum and the nasal turbinates.
The Nasal Septum
The nasal septum is like a wall composed of both cartilage and bone, dividing the inside of your nose into the right and left breathing passages. If your septum is crooked ("deviated" in medical terminology), your nasal airway will be blocked. Your deviated septum can be an anatomic feature you inherited or your deviated septum can be caused by trauma to your nose -- falling off your bicycle, an accidental blow from an elbow, a basketball or football injury, falling against a table, walking into a door.
Because the nasal septum is covered on both left and right sides with only a
thin layer of pink nasal lining, the septum itself typically is not affected by swelling due to your allergies. If, however, like many of my patients, you have a deviated septum in addition
to your severe nasal allergies, then surgery to correct your deviated septum is the only way to achieve a truly open nasal airway -- sprays and pills have no significant effect on a deviated septum. In my 30 years of treating patients with nasal obstruction, I have seen many patients who were very surprised to learn they had a deviated septum after struggling for years with allergy pills and sprays which gave them very minimal help with their labored nasal breathing. My results with septal surgery, using the special laser techniques I developed myself, are truly impressive! (See Laser Nasal
Surgery to Prevent Nasal Blockage.)
But the structures inside your nose that really react to
your allergies are your nasal turbinates -- and your turbinates react very dramatically: they can swell up massively in response to your allergies. Then your nasal breathing will be severely blocked, with or without a deviated septum.
As I mentioned above, the turbinates are long scrolls of bone on the side walls of your nose. The turbinate bone is covered with thick, pink nasal lining containing many large blood vessels. When you look inside the nose, the turbinates look like plump, pink cylinders with bony attachments to the side wall of the nose. Their function is to warm and humidify the air that passes through your nose into the back of your throat and then through your voice box and windpipe into your lungs.
On each side wall of your nose (right side and left side) there are actually three turbinates: the inferior (lowest) turbinate, the middle turbinate, and the superior (highest) turbinate. The inferior turbinate is by far the most important turbinate affecting your ability to breathe through your nose. Consequently, when I describe turbinate surgery later in our talk, I am really referring to surgery I perform on the inferior turbinates. Only occasionally, surgical reduction of the middle turbinate might also be needed, usually involving a trim of the front or lower edge where polyps arise. The superior turbinate is quite small and is not involved in turbinate surgery.
Your turbinates are Prime Target Organs for your allergies -- whatever you're allergic to selectively targets your turbinates and hits them hard! The reaction of your turbinates to your allergies causes the severe nasal blockage, sneezing, watering, itching, and facial pressure.
After years of merely temporary and expensive "band-aids" using pills, sprays, and nasal strips, wouldn't you like to have available a permanent, definitive treatment that offers you the relief you deserve?
Any information provided on this
Web site should not be considered medical advice or a substitute for a
consultation with a physician. If you have a medical problem, contact your
local physician for diagnosis and treatment.
© 2012 Barry J. Feinberg, M.D.