What are turbinates?
Inside our noses on the side walls, we have radiators, referred to as turbinates, that humidify, heat, and filter the air as it flows into our noses.
Why do we need these radiators? Because the air needs to be treated before it reaches our lungs. It needs to be cleaned, warmed to the right temperature, and moistened. As you can see, the turbinates play an important role in the health of our bodies.
There are 3 turbinates in your nose
- Superior turbinates (upper)
- Middle turbinates
- Inferior turbinates (lower)
Functionally, the most important turbinates are the inferior, or lower, turbinates. They are bilaterally located on either side of the nasal septum and they are made of spongy and curly bones. Mucous membranes (epithelia) cover them and provide initial immunological help to the lymphatic system. Inferior turbinates can become inflamed or even shrink when you have a sinus infection, allergies, or if there is an environmental temperature swing. All of us have some degree of turbinate dysfunction at some point in our lives.
However, when the inferior turbinates continually become inflamed, it is chronic and is referred to as turbinate hypertrophy.
Some symptoms of turbinate hypertrophy include breathing difficulty and snoring because the swelling of the turbinate closes off airflow into the nose.
Deviated septum and turbinate hypertrophy
Turbinate hypertrophy is associated with nosebleeds, chronic sinus infections and chronic sinusitis, each of which can be caused by a deviated septum.
The nasal septum is a thin wall of bone and cartilage that separates your left and right nasal cavities. When it becomes crooked or displaced to one side of the nose, it is referred to as a deviated septum. As the nasal septum deviates to one side of the nose, it can reduce airflow, create more difficulty breathing, leave you susceptible to chronic sinus infections, chronic post nasal drip, headaches, and can cause snoring, sleep apnea, bad breath, and tooth decay.
When the nasal septum protrudes to one side, interestingly, the inferior turbinate that becomes inflamed is on the opposite side. That is, if the septum deviates right, it’s the inferior turbinate on the left that is swollen. So, it’s rather common for doctor’s to encounter patients with two blocked nasal passages, one from the deviated septum and the other from the enlarged turbinate.
Treating turbinate hypertrophy
- Remove irritating physical and chemical factors, i.e., dry air, tobacco smoke, stress
- Nasal steroid sprays – reduces mucous inflammation
- Surgery (turbinoplasty) – also called a turbinate reduction that opens the nasal airways. A turbinoplasty can also be performed in conjunction with a septoplasty which is surgery to correct a deviated septum
Schedule an appointment
If you suffer from symptoms of turbinate hypertrophy – nasal congestion, difficulty breathing, chronic nosebleeds, chronic sinus infections – call (610) 279-7878 to schedule an appointment or click here to Request an Appointment.