One of the most common causes of nasal stuffiness is turbinate hypertrophy. The turbinates are structures inside the nose that consist of bone and soft tissue. The soft tissue portion can swell up (become hypertrophied), causing nasal stuffiness. In each side of the nose, there are three nasal turbinates, located on the nasal sidewall. They are oriented from top to bottom as the superior, middle, and inferior turbinates.
There are many causes of turbinate swelling (hypertrophy). These include: upper respiratory tract infection (common cold), sinus infection, allergies, auto-immune diseases which affect the nose/sinsuses, and non-allergic rhinitis (a condition where the nose is overly sensitive to irritants such as chemicals, smoke, strong perfumes, etc.)
Usually, turbinate hypertrophy can be managed medically by addressing the underlying problem. Treatments include nasal steroid sprays, topical and oral allergy medications, nasal saline rinses, and occasionally decongestants.
Occasionally, turbinate hypertrophy does not respond to medical therapy. In these cases, a surgical turbinate reduction (turbinoplasty) may be recommended. Often, this can be done in the office with local anesthesia. Other times, turbinate reduction is done in the operating room in conjunction with other nasal operations, including: septoplasty, endoscopic sinus surgery, or nasal valve repair.
If you think you have turbinate hypertrophy, your physician can discuss the appropriate treatment.