Here’s a rundown of some possible causes of nasal congestion and obstruction. If your score on the N.O.SE. self-assessment tool is 26 – 50 or higher, it’s possible that one of these conditions is to blame.
Inflamed nasal lining (rhinitis)
The tissue inside your nose can swell as result of irritation. Sometimes this occurs when your immune system responds to exposure to dust, pollen or mold spores with an allergic reaction (allergic rhinitis is the medical term). The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI) estimates that between 40 and 60 million Americans are affected by allergic rhinitis. Non-allergic rhinitis is the term for swollen nasal tissue not caused by allergy: exposure to smoke, chemicals or particles in polluted air. The swelling narrows the airway, restricting air flow through your nasal passages.
Narrow or collapsed nasal valve
The nasal valves are the part of your nasal passages located just ‘upstream’ from the nostrils. If the nasal valve is narrow or weak enough to collapse inward as you inhale, the flow of breath through the airway may be disrupted, causing the stuffy feeling.
The septum is the wall of cartilage that begins between your nostrils and divides your nasal airway in two. If the septum is significantly off center (deviated, in medical terms), you may find it much harder to inhale and exhale through the narrower side. Deviated septum could be congenital (something you were born with), or it could be the result of injury to your nose.
Nasal polyps are small, noncancerous growths that form inside the nose, near where the sinuses open into the nasal cavity. Typically they cause no problems, but if polyps grow too large, they can obstruct the nasal passages and restrict the flow of air.
Swollen (hypertrophic) turbinates
The nasal turbinates, a pair of ridged plates comprised of bone and soft tissue, are located inside the nose along the two nasal passages. Their purpose is to warm and moisturize the air you inhale, on its way through the nasal passages to the lungs. Swollen (or hypertrophic) turbinates protrude toward the septum, closing off the airway.
What’s your score on the N.O.SE. self-assessment tool?