Turbinate Hypertrophy is one of the most common causes of nasal congestion. Turbinates are natural structures that lie within the internal portion of your nose and nasal airway. The lining of the turbinates helps humidify the air you breathe. Sometimes, they can be quite large and obstruct your nasal breathing. The enlargement can be temporary (like when you are exposed to allergens, or have a “cold”) or permanent and contribute to chronic difficulty breathing through your nose or chronic sinus problems.
Medications like decongestant sprays or nasal steroid sprays may help temporarily “shrink” an inflamed turbinate, but permanently enlarged turbinates that cause symptoms of nasal congestion often require a procedure to reduce them. This is called a “turbinate reduction” and there are several different ways that ENTs can address this. One of the most common ways is what is called a “submucous turbinate reduction” which reduces the overall size of the turbinates while preserving the mucosa so that the turbinate continues to provide its natural function, but is less obstructive. This is a minimally invasive 5-10 minute procedure that can be done in an office-setting under local anesthesia or at an outpatient surgery setting. As it is quite a common condition, it is often combined with other nasal/sinus procedures.
A related condition is called a “concha bullosa” and this is when one or more of your turbinates is abnormally enlarged because the turbinate itself has formed a sinus cell within the turbinate and this can cause chronic nasal congestion or chronic sinus problems by obstructing the sinus outflows. Similarly, they can be reduced in an office setting or outpatient surgery setting.