What is Turbinate Hypertrophy?

The turbinates are small, bony structures that are located in the nasal passages on either side of the nasal septum. They are responsible for filtering, heating and humidifying the air that enters the nose before it reaches the lungs.

There are three pairs of turbinates: inferior, middle and superior. The abnormal enlargement of the inferior turbinate often results in chronic nasal obstruction, which can lead to:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Mouth breathing
  • Snoring and sleep disturbances
  • Headaches
Doctor checking on a patient

What Causes Turbinate Hypertrophy?

  • Allergies and/or sinusitis
  • Cigarette smoke and other irritants
  • Pregnancy and hormonal changes
  • The natural aging process
  • Congenital factors

How is this Condition Diagnosed?

Turbinate hypertrophy can be diagnosed following a detailed discussion of your symptoms and a comprehensive physical examination at our office. During your appointment, your doctor will insert a lighted endoscope in the nasal cavity to closely examine the area and determine whether or not your turbinates are swollen. In some cases, a CT scan may also be ordered to visualize the inferior turbinates and confirm their abnormal enlargement.

Our Treatment Options

If your condition is not severe enough to warrant surgery, medications may be prescribed to help manage the symptoms of turbinate hypertrophy. For example, nasal steroid sprays, nasal antihistamine sprays, oral decongestants and oral steroids can all help to reduce swelling, target inflammation and improve nasal breathing.

However, if your symptoms persist with medication, surgery may be necessary to reduce the size of your inferior turbinates. When done correctly, this procedure can improve nasal breathing, minimize postnasal drip and reduce nasal drainage. It can be performed entirely within the nose, without any external incisions or scarring. To begin, your doctor will insert a small, lighted endoscope to obtain a magnified view of the turbinates. From there, he or she will reduce the size of these vital structures through radiofrequency ablation, cautery of the turbinates or the surgical reduction of the turbinate bone.

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