Chronic Nasal Congestion: Causes of Congestion and Treatment Options

Question: I have a serious problem I need to address.  I am 34 yrs old and I never breathe through my nose, consistently, always through my mouth.  I can’t really smell things without actually trying to smell things. Because of this, my speech is impaired and I sound like I am talking through my nose, and most times I am stuffy.  Clearly, I have chronic nasal congestion. I need to address this issue once and for all, cause I want to sound regular.  I hope you can help me with my problem.

Answer: Thanks for your note.  Unfortunately, what you describe is too common a problem.  You describe many of the symptoms one can get from chronic nasal congestion.  The nose has many functions.  It is a filter to help the body fight off respiratory illnesses.  It filters out irritating particles in the air and humidifies the air so that breathing in the air is body temperature and moist by the time it reaches the back of the nose.  The smell fibers are located at the roof of the nose and can easily be blocked by nasal congestion.   The sinuses serve for resonance in speaking.   Many of these functions we take for granted but can cause significant hardship when lost.

There are many different causes of such nasal congestion.  This can be from nasal allergies or environmental sensitivities.  One can develop congestion with a deviated nasal septum (twisted center wall of the nasal cavity), nasal polyps, chronic sinus infections or weakening of the structural supporting cartilages of the nose.  Reflux of stomach acid in some people can go as high as the nasal cavities, causing swelling of the tissues and nasal congestion.

Our role at the NY Sinus Center is not just to blindly treat, but to find the cause of such symptoms for each individual.  Treatment then can be readily directed at that cause (or causes) so that each patient can have his or her nose back to doing its job.

Robert L. Pincus MD

NY Sinus Center