Disorders of nasal breathing


  1. What are disorders of nasal breathing?
  2. What are the symptoms?
  3. What causes nasal breathing disorders?
  4. What is the treatment?

What are disorders of nasal breathing?

Nasal breathing disorders are relatively common and mainly cause difficulties in breathing properly through the nose.

The most common nasal breathing disorders include:

  • Sinusitis – swelling of the sinuses due to infection.
  • Deviated septum – the nasal septum (the bone and cartilage that divides the nasal cavity is crooked, which makes breathing difficult.
  • Nose / sinus trauma due to injury – for example, a broken nose that has not healed properly can cause chronic nasal breathing issues.
  • Nasal Valve Collapse (NVC) – when nasal tissues are not formed correctly or are weak, creating difficulty breathing through the nose.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms vary for each disorder.

Sinusitis –

  • Pain and tenderness around the cheeks, eyes and forehead
  • Blocked nose
  • Green or yellow mucus
  • Headache
  • High temperature
  • Bad breath
  • Reduced sense of smell

Deviated septum –

  • Facial pain
  • Nosebleeds
  • Loud breathing
  • Snoring
  • Headache
  • Runny nose

Nose / sinus trauma due to injury -

  • Congestion and difficulty breathing through the nose

Nasal Valve Collapse (NVC) - 

  • Nasal obstruction
  • Nosebleeds
  • Congestion and difficulty breathing through the nose

What causes nasal breathing disorders?

Sinusitis is most often caused by an infection. It can also be caused by a common cold, allergic rhinitis (which causes the lining of the nose to swell), nasal polyps on the lining of the nose or a deviated septum. Sinusitis is very common and it is very common to have sinusitis following a cold of the flu.

A deviated septum is usually something some people are born with, but it can also be caused by trauma or injury to the nose.

Nasal Valve Collapse can be caused by:

  • Rhinoplasty (nose job) – plastic surgery to the nose, for example, removing the nose hump can cause NVC.
  • Deviated septum – a very common cause of NVC which can result from nasal injury or surgery.
  • Trauma or nose surgery – due to inflammation, swelling or the formation of scar tissue.
  • Inherited anatomical characteristics – for example, noses that are over-projecting, have narrow nostrils and a wide columella (the exterior part of the nose that separates each nostril) can result in NVC naturally.

What is the treatment?

Sinusitis -

Treating simple sinusitis does not usually involve seeing a doctor, and doing the following will usually clear it up:

  • Plenty of rest
  • Keeping hydrated
  • Painkillers
  • Steaming your face over a bowl of hot water
  • Using an over-the-counter decongestant nasal spray

If sinusitis persists, a doctor may prescribe antibiotics, for a course of usually 10 to 14 days.

For those suffering from chronic sinusitus, a warm compress to the nose, saline nose drops and prescribed steroids can help.

Deviated septum

In some cases, the symptoms caused by a deviated septum can be relieved by medication. However, if this is not the case, then a surgical procedure called a septoplasty might be recommended. This procedure restores the crooked septum to improve nasal breathing. A septoplasty involves the removal of excess bone and cartilage and is sometimes performed under general anaesthetic. This procedure is often combined with a rhinoplasty to imporve the appearance of the nose.

Nasal Valve Collapse –

There are two key approaches to treating NVC:

  • Surgery (rhinoplasty) is carried out to repair the collapsed nasal valve. Sometimes a special implant, made of titanium is required to hold the nasal valve open.
  • Nasal valve dilator – for those who do not wish to undergo surgery, using a nasal valve dilator to manually widen the nasal valve can provide nasal breathing relief. These can either be in the form of stick-on strips that you wear across the bridge of your nose. They can also be special silicon inserts that are worn internally. 
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