Nasal obstruction – Symptoms, types and other factors

Nasal obstruction : Symptoms and Types

Nasal obstruction can be caused by nasal congestion, tumors, enlarged adenoids, nasal polyps, enlarged turbinates and nasal septum. This condition accompanies anything which hinders the airflow in and out of your nose which is affecting one or both your nasal passages. This condition in the most cases is caused by either swelling of the nasal tissue or an anatomical blockage which results in a narrowing of the nasal cavity and you have the feeling of the passage being congested. Nasal obstruction can also lead to OSA (obstructive sleep apnea), snoring and sleeping disorders. [1] There are many studies in which are said that there are many possible treatments for this condition such as natural treatments, surgical treatments and in – office treatments.

Causes of nasal obstruction or congestion

The most common temporary causes for nasal congestion are:

  • Certain medications such as high blood pressure medicine [2]
  • Cold or flu [3]
  • Sinus infection [4]
  • Environmental irritants such as dust or smoke [5]
  • Allergic rhinitis (allergies such as hay fever) [6]
  • Chronic sinusitis

The most common anatomical factors which can contribute to nasal congestion or obstruction are including:

  • Nasal tumors (bening or cancerous)
  • Enlarged adenoids (block the black of the nasal passage)
  • Nasal polyps (benign growths within the nasal cavity) [7]
  • Enlarged turbinates (bony structure within the nasal cavity) [8]
  • Also the deviated nasal septum (crooked cartilage within the nose blocks the airway) is a reason for nasal obstruction

No matter what is the cause for this condition, this is a very uncomfortable condition. When nasal obstruction is experienced regularly, then it can become a hindrance to your quality of life.

Symptoms of nasal obstruction

Here are some symptoms of nasal obstruction:

  • Fatigue: Often a feeling of fatigue or lack of energy is due to inability to sleep or rest well because of a nasal obstruction. [9]
  • Sleep apnea and snoring: The obstructive sleep apnea is a disorder that causes breathing interruptions during sleep and can lead to snoring. [1]
  • Mouth breathing: When your nasal obstruction is present, it is common to unconsciously breathe through the mouth instead of the nose.
  • Nasal congestion: Congestion is causing difficulty breathing through the nose and a feeling of fullness. For many people this is the worst at night.
  • Difficulty breathing through one or both sides of your nose: Depending on the source and location of the obstruction. Also it can be difficult for air to pass through the nasal passages. [10]

Nasal obstruction : Symptoms and Types

Types of nasal obstructions: An obstruction in your nose can be caused by many different conditions such as

  • Enlarged Adenoids: Adenoid tissue is located at the back of your nose. When enlarged, it can block the nasal airways causing complications such as sleep apnea, snoring or sinusitis. This problem generally affects young children, but adults can suffer from the condition as well.
  • Nasal polyps: Nasal polyps are the growths of the inflammatory tissue in the nasal cavity and sinuses. They can block airflow through the nose as well as grainage from the sinuses. People who suffer from allergies or asthma are more likely to have nasal polyps.
  • Nasal septum deviation: We know that the septum is the wall that separates the two sides of our nose. In the rare cases the septum is perfectly straight, but severe bends or deviations (present at birth or following a nasal fracture can cause a narrow airway that makes breathing difficult).
  • asal valve obstruction: Our nasal valve is located between the sidewall and the septum of our nose. We know that the valve naturally moves as part of the breathing process. When the nasal valve is weak or narrow in structure, then the airflow is inhibited.
  • Nasal turbinate hypertrophy: We know that the nasal turbinates are bone structures covered by a tissue lining. 3 turbinates line each side of the nasal cavity. This condition refers the chronic enlargement of the turbinates. The cause of this condition is not always known but it is often related to inflammation and rhinitis. They (turbinates) are naturally swelling and shrinking as part of the nasal cycle, but when they become excessively large, the result can be significant nasal obstruction.


[1] Migueis DP, Thuler LCS, Lemes LNdA, et al. Systematic review: the influence of nasal obstruction on sleep apnea. Brazilian Journal of Otorhinolaryngology. 2016;82(2).

[2] Smitha SG, Jagannath B, Mathew AS. Impact of septal correction on the blood pressure of hypertensive patients with deviated nasal septum. Indian Journal of Otolaryngology and Head & Neck Surgery. 2016;68(1):46–51.

[3] Sanu A, Eccles R. The effects of a hot drink on nasal airflow and symptoms of common cold and flu. Rhinology. 2008;46(4):271-5.

[4] Rotter N. Evidence and evidence gaps in therapies of nasal obstruction and rhinosinusitis. GMS Current Topics in Otorhinolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery. 2016;15:Doc06.

[5] Schlünssen V, Schaumburg I, Andersen NT, et al. Nasal patency is related to dust exposure in woodworkers. Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 2002;59:23-9.

[6] Bjermer L, Westman M, Holmström M, Wickman MC. The complex pathophysiology of allergic rhinitis: scientific rationale for the development of an alternative treatment option. Allergy, Asthma & Clinical Immunology. 2019;15.

[7] Newton JR, Ah-See KW. A review of nasal polyposis. Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management. 2008;4(2):507–12.

[8] Dhulipalla S. Comparative study of response through reduction in the size of hypertrophied inferior turbinate causing nasal obstruction by different surgical modalities: A Prospective Study. Indian Journal of Otolaryngology and Head & Neck Surgery. 2015;67(1):56–9.

[9] Chester AC. Symptoms of rhinosinusitis in patients with unexplained chronic fatigue or bodily pain: A pilot study. Arch Intern Med. 2003;163(15):1832-1836

[10] McNicholas WT. The nose and OSA: variable nasal obstruction may be more important in pathophysiology than fixed obstruction. European Respiratory Journal. 2008;32:3-8; doi: 10.1183/09031936.00050208


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