Blocked nose, also referred to as stuffy nose or nasal congestion which is one of the most commonly occurring problem. Nasal congestion occurs when the tissues lining the nose is swollen which is because of the inflamed blood vessels. If nasal congestion is not treated it can lead to ear, hearing, and speech problems. It may also lead to a condition known as sleep apnoea (causes one or more pause while breathing).
The four main causes of blocked nose are:
- Infections: Common cold, flu, and sinus infection are all caused by virus infection. These viruses are transmitted by air which causes the nasal tissues to swell up. Sinus infection also causes nasal congestion which leads to thick discharge of mucous. Sinusitis is the inflammation of sinuses in and around the nasal region causing blocked nose.
- Structural abnormalities: These include deformities of the nose and nasal septum such as deviated nasal septum (cartilage that divides the two nostrils), large inferior turbinates, polyps in the nose, external valve collapse, bent or twisted nose, and large adenoids. These deformities results from an injury or may be present the time of birth. One of the most common causes of nasal congestion is enlarged adenoid glands (tonsil-like tissue situated at the back of the nose). The other cause is polyps (fleshy growths) or tumours in nose that occur due to infection of the nasal sinuses.
- Allergies – Allergy occurs due to the inflammatory response to harmless environmental substances known as allergens such as pollen, dust mites, house dust, and animal dander, tobacco smoke. These allergens releases a substance called as histamine can cause congestion and excess production of watery nasal mucous.
- Vasomotor rhinitis –It is a non-allergic condition that causes inflammation of the nose and nasal membranes because of abnormal nerve control of the blood vessels in the nose. Membranes of the nose have the ability to expand and contract. During the allergic response these membranes expand leading to nasal congestion. Some of the factors that expand these membranes are irritants such as perfume, tobacco smoke, and psychological stress.
Some of the medical treatments to treat nasal congestion are as follows:
- Decongestants nasal sprays and drops are prescribed to relieve the stuffy nose. These medicines shrink the swollen blood vessels in the lining of the nose. It should not be used for more than 3 days as it may make the congestion worse.
- Antihistamines are suggested to prevent allergic response and improve the congestion.
- Antibiotics in addition to anti-inflammatory drugs are prescribed for sinus infection that causes pain and swelling around the nose.
Surgery may be needed to correct the anatomic abnormalities. Some of the surgical procedures include
- Septoplasty – To correct the deviated nasal septum.
Turbinoplasty – For large inferior turbinates.
- Polypectomy – To remove the nasal polyps.
- Functional rhinoplasty – For external valve collapse. Rhinoplasty surgery is done for bent or twisted nose.
- Adenoidectomy – To remove enlarged adenoids.
- Functional endoscopic sinus surgery – To fix the narrow sinus openings.