Causes Of Turbinate Hypertrophy: Symptoms & Treatment Options

Turbinate hypertrophy is common issue among many people having frequent stuffy nose and impairment in normal nasal breathing. Turbinate are nothing but curled spongy bones inside the nose. In each nostril there are three turbinates namely the inferior, middle and superior turbinates. The turbinates are covered with mucous membrane. The nasal septum separates each nostril. The inferior turbinate is near the floor of nose where as the superior turbinate is located upwards in the nostril.

Turbinates have important function during respiration. It helps the inhaled air to become warm and humid. It is also an important structure in the nose that traps dirt and dust from the inhaled air.

Thus the turbinates act as filters. Turbinate hypertrophy or enlargement occurs when it is irritated by allergies, irritants from environment, sinusitis etc.

Hypertrophied turbinate can lead to nasal blockage and difficulty in breathing. Treatment in most cases is conservative consisting of nasal steroid spray and decongestant spray. Surgery may be necessary if the condition is not improving conservatively.

What Causes Hypertrophied Nasal Turbinates?

The three turbinate inside each nostril are essential for many purposes. Actually they direct the airflow inside the nasal cavity. Turbinate are also known as concha. They are covered by mucus membrane.

The mucus membrane covering the turbinate warms and filters the inhaled air before it enters into the lung. Humid air protects the delicate olfactory receptor cells that are involved in recognizing odor.

Turbinate hypertrophy or enlargement can occur due to various reasons. Untreated chronic allergy is one of the main reasons for inflammation and enlargement of turbinate. It occurs due to repeated irritation caused by allergy. Infection such as sinusitis or exposure to environmental irritants such as chemical fumes and cigarette smoking can also lead to turbinate hypertrophy. Hormonal changes in woman during pregnancy and menopause can cause turbinate hypertrophy.

Deviated nasal septum is another cause for turbinate enlargement. Nasal septum is a thick cartilaginous structure between the two nostrils. Deviated nasal septum can be since birth or occur as a result of trauma. When this defect is present, there is compensatory hypertrophy of the turbinate on the opposite side of deviation.

Symptoms Of Turbinate Hypertrophy

Turbinate hypertrophy in nose can be on one side of nose or bilateral, meaning on both sides. In majority of cases the inferior concha is affected. Hypertrophy of turbinate can lead to frequent nasal obstruction and stuffy nose. When your nose is congested, you may not be able to breathe normally and often breathe through mouth. This if persists for many days and months can affect daily activity of a person.

Turbinate hypertrophy is also responsible for snoring and obstructive sleep apnea. Due to frequent congestion of nasal passage, patient may also suffer from sinusitis over a period of time. Due to congestion and irritation in the nose, the mucus membrane becomes inflamed and blood vessels will leak causing nasal bleeding.

Treatment Options For Turbinate Hypertrophy

Turbinate hypertrophy is not dangerous or life threatening condition, but can cause great discomfort to the patient. Hence turbinate hypertrophy must always be treated. Normally the treatment is conservative. The aim is to reduce exposure to allergens and treat underlying allergy. Both will eventually reduce inflammation of turbinate and improve breathing through nose.

Conservative treatment consists of use of nasal steroid spray and decongestant nasal spray.  Avoiding environmental irritants such as quitting smoking, reducing exposure to dust and fumes, and use of antihistamine medicines will help to reduce swelling of turbinate. When the conservative methods are not effective, surgical procedure may be necessary in some cases.

One method is radiofrequency turbinate reduction. It helps to shrink the enlarged hypertrophied turbinate. In this low temperature radiofrequency energy is used with the help of a probe to reduce the size of turbinate. In case if nasal septum is deviated, patient may need to undergo surgical correction for the same.