Ear, Nose & Throat

Do You Regularly Have Trouble Breathing Through Your Nose?

written by Becki Andrus

Close your mouth and take a deep breath. Do you notice that the air flows freely through both sides of your nose? Or, is it difficult for the air to move through?

If you’re having trouble breathing through your nose, then it could be a sign that you need to consult with an ENT. An otolaryngologist (commonly known as an Ear, Nose, Throat doctor, or ENT) can help you diagnose the underlying reason why your breathing is difficult.

Sometimes, it’s simple to clear the issues so you can breathe freely again. But the recommended treatment depends on the underlying cause of your breathing issues.

Two Common Causes: Why You Can’t Breathe Through Your Nose

An ENT will complete a physical exam, discuss your symptoms, and might use other diagnostic methods to determine the underlying cause of your breathing issues. The goal is to identify an accurate diagnosis. Then the medical team can help with an effective treatment plan.

The two most common reasons people have trouble breathing through their nose are chronic sinusitis and nasal obstruction.

Sinusitis is a recurring condition that results in congestion and infection in the sinus cavities. If you have an ongoing post-nasal drip, frequent sinus infections, and other ongoing nasal issues, talk to our team about treatment for sinusitis.

On the other hand, the underlying cause of your breathing problems could be a nasal obstruction. This happens when the nasal cavity is blocked by one or more of the following issues:

  • Allergies
  • A head cold
  • A sinus infection
  • Medication

Most of the time, nasal obstruction is a temporary condition that goes away when you recover from the underlying cause. For example, it will be easier to breathe through your nose after feeling better from a head cold.

But there are instances where nasal obstruction requires medical intervention. For example, there might be a physical issue that is blocking the sinus cavity. Common problems include:

  • Deviated septum
  • Nasal valve collapse
  • Inferior turbinate hypertrophy
  • Oversized adenoids
  • Nasal polyps

There are times when nasal breathing issues are caused by foreign objects in the nose in young children. An ENT can assist with the removal of small toys, crayon pieces, food, beads, erasers, buttons, dried beans, or anything else the child pushed up the nose.

Treatments for Sinusitis Nasal Blockages

Before we can determine a treatment plan, the most critical step is identifying an accurate diagnosis for your condition. Then, we can move forward with more confidence that your treatment will offer the relief you are seeking.

When a nasal obstruction occurs due to chronic congestion from sinusitis, we start by addressing the infection that is causing inflammation. Sometimes, it is as simple as a round of antibiotics to clear away the bacteria causing the infection.

Other times, sinusitis requires allergy treatment or the removal of irritants in the air, such as secondhand smoke, pollen, dust particles, or any other sources of irritation.

Common sinusitis treatment options include:

  • Steroid nasal sprays
  • Avoiding environmental irritants
  • Antifungal medications
  • Antibiotics
  • Antihistamine medications
  • Surgery for structural problems

Treatments for Other Nasal Obstructions

The treatment plan looks different if you are having problems breathing because of other types of nasal obstructions. Surgical treatments are more common in this situation.

Common nasal obstruction treatments might include:

  • Adenoid removal
  • Surgery to shrink the turbinates
  • Balloon sinuplasty to open up the sinus passages
  • Surgery to correct a deviated septum
  • CPAP machine if it is related to sleep apnea

The positioning of the bones and tissues within the nose will affect how air can move through the nasal passageways. Some people have nasal obstructions due to past injuries or genetic conditions. Other times, the obstruction happens due to a build-up of tissue and local inflammation.

Having a deviated septum is a common issue that might cause breathing problems in the nose. There is a wall of cartilage that separates the inside of the nose. If this cartilage is bent, then it can block one or both sides of the nose.

Rhinoplasty might be the best option to correct a deviated septum. Through this surgical technique, we can realign the cartilage so you can breathe freely once again.

Another common condition that requires surgical treatment is if you have nasal polyps blocking the sinus passes. These swollen areas occur when there is inflammation in the nose and sinuses. When the polyps get large enough, they need to be removed since they are blocking the airway.

Treating the Underlying Conditions

It’s important to remember that your symptoms offer clues to the underlying conditions that need to be treated. You might be able to find temporary relief with nasal sprays or immediate treatment. But the only way to breathe comfortably through your nose in the future is by addressing the underlying condition.

For example, an experienced ENT can complete a thorough diagnostic exam to identify the issues blocking your breathing pathways. Then, a personalized treatment plan can be created to help you experience immediate and long-term relief.

One example is when nasal polyps or a deviated septum are causing congestion, leading to sinus infections. You might assume that you need another round of antibiotics to treat the condition.

Antibiotics can help to clear up the immediate symptoms. But it’s common for the infection to come back again since the nasal passages block healthy drainage from the sinuses. You also need to consider a surgical technique to correct the physical obstruction so you can prevent recurring infections again in the future.

4 Signs You Should Talk to an ENT

How do you know when it’s time to talk to an ENT about your difficulty breathing through your nose? Here are a few indications that you will benefit from treatment and care from an ENT:

  1. Timeline: When the nasal blockages continue longer than 7 to 10 days, you are dealing with a chronic condition. It’s normal to have congestion and difficulty breathing during a head cold. But your breathing should go back to normal when the illness is gone.
  2. Headaches: If the air isn’t flowing well through the nasal passages, it can result in headaches. Not only do you lack oxygen, but sinus pressure can contribute to headaches as well.
  3. Nosebleeds: Blockages in the nasal passages can affect sinus drainage. As a result, there may be areas of the nose that dry out because they lack moisture. Nosebleeds are a typical result that could indicate a nasal obstruction that needs to be treated.
  4. Snoring: Not only is snoring inconvenient or annoying to your sleeping partner, but it could also be a sign of an underlying health condition that needs to be treated. Nasal obstructions can also contribute to sleep apnea, which causes breathing to stop while you are sleeping.

Talk to Our ENT Specialists

Are you having problems breathing through your nose? Then it’s time to call us at Collin County Ear, Nose, and Throat. Our team of ENTs is here to serve families in the Dallas and Collin County areas. Schedule an exam, and you will visit one of our specialists at a nearby office in Frisco or Plano, TX. Request an appointment using our online form, or call: (972) 596-4005.

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We find our patients’ experiences the most rewarding part of the job. Without them, we wouldn’t be one of the longest standing ENT practices in the area!

“This was my first time visiting this office. These folks were super friendly!! Starting with the front desk to all the help in the back, the Dr. Littlejohn was very patient and listened to all my concerns. I dealt with 5 people total due to testing and they all were genuinely nice! Loved it, and not to mention quick service. Great customer service, I’ll be sure to refer family and friends! ”

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“I have used Collin Co. ENT and Dr. Kenny Carter for over 3 years, primarily for ear problems. The staff has been consistently helpful and friendly to me. When I have had problems needing immediate attention and explained the need, have been able to get an appointment within a reasonable time to address the problem. I recommend Dr. Carter and his staff.”

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