Nasal turbinates are small structures that grow from the outer walls of the nasal cavities.
They are completely normal and help the mucous membrane accomplish it’s functions, which are moisturizing the air that enters the nose, helping to eliminate foreign bodies, and maintaining mucous flow. There are three sets of nasal turbinates in each of the nasal cavities, which are the superior turbinates, the middle turbinates, and the inferior turbinates.
Turbinate hypertrophy occurs when either the middle or the inferior nasal turbinates become enlarged because approximately half of all of the air flow passes between these two. This means that when they become enlarged, it is possible for the airflow to be blocked or obstructed.
What Causes It?
In the event that the issue is occurring with the middle turbinate, the cause may be a concha bullosa, which is essentially an air pocket within the turbinate. Concha bullosas are almost always a congenital issue, which means that they can’t be prevented but they usually can be treated.
On the other hand, if the turbinate hypertrophy has occurred with the inferior turbinate, it can be either the result of a congenital defect or as a result of inflammation. Inflammation can lead to inferior turbinate hypertrophy as well and this can have a number of different roots. Many common ailments, such as sinusitis, involve inflammation of the nasal cavities. Additionally, many chronic illnesses involve generalized inflammation.
It is unlikely that a patient would never experience any ailment that involved inflammation, but diagnosing them early on and getting the inflammation under control can potentially prevent it from leading to turbinate hypertrophy.
What Are Some Of The Symptoms?
The symptoms of turbinate hypertrophy overlap significantly with sinusitis. These symptoms include congestion, sore throat, drainage, facial pain, headaches, and facial swelling. However, inflamed turbinates can also lead to partial or complete nasal obstruction. That means that air flow can be significantly blocked and mucous drainage can be prevented. This extreme level of blockage can also result in snoring, recurring nosebleeds, apnea, and disrupted sleep. Most commonly, turbinate hypertrophy can also lead to recurring sinusitis and mouth breathing.
How Is Turbinate Hypertrophy Treated?
The treatment for turbinate hypertrophy will depend on which of the turbinates are enlarged. In the case of inferior turbinate hypertrophy, it is important to get the inflammation that initially caused the problem under control, which can be accomplished with steroids. In some cases, medication can resolve the issue. However, many cases require a procedure to remove the effected membrane tissue. One such operation is submucous resection, which removes part of the bone to reduce the size of the inferior turbinate. Coblation, which is complete removal of the inferior turbinate, may be considered in some cases. In the case of middle turbinate obstruction, the air-pocket might be removed via an endoscopic operation.