Turbinate Hypertrophy

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What Is Turbinate Hypertrophy?

Chronic nasal obstruction or a stuffy nose is often caused in part by enlargement (hypertrophy) of the inferior turbinate. Congested nasal obstruction can impair normal breathing, forcing patients to breathe through the mouth and often affects their daily activities.

Enlarged Inferior Turbinate

Enlarged turbinates and nasal obstruction can also contribute to headaches and sleep disorders such as snoring and obstructive sleep apnea, as the nasal airway is the normal breathing route during sleep.

Diagnosis of Interior Turbinate Hypertrophy

At MetropolitanMD, a diagnosis of inferior turbinate hypertrophy can usually be made on your first visit. After taking your history an exam will be performed. During the exam, an endoscope, which is a small telescope with a light on one end and an eyepiece at the other, may be used to examine the inside of your nose. A CT Scan may be required to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatments for Turbinate Reduction

There are several medications available to treat the symptoms (mainly congestion) caused by inferior turbinate hypertrophy. These include:

  • Nasal steroids sprays
  • Nasal antihistamine sprays
  • Oral decongestants
  • Oral Steroids

These medications are designed to help reduce swelling (inflammation) and improve nasal breathing.

What Are the Turbinates and What Do They Do?

The turbinates are two spongy curled bones that protrude into the nasal passages. They can be found on both sides of the nasal cavity and are separated by the nasal septum. The turbinates are covered by respiratory epithelium covering a thick layer of vascular tissue. Named by their location, there are three turbinates: the inferior, middle, and superior turbinates. The inferior turbinate is the largest and most prone to swelling and blocking airflow.


The turbinates are responsible for directing the airflow inside the nasal cavity. The soft tissue covering them is responsible for humidifying, heating, and filtering inhaled air. It is important to humidify the air to prevent damage to the olfactory receptors that are responsible for the recognition of various scents and odors. The epithelial layer is also the first line of immunological defense, triggering a quick immune response at the signs of microbial or chemical irritation.

Dr Rachel is a true artist! Not only is he highly skilled at what he does, he is kind and caring with an awesome bedside manner! His office staff is second to none as well. I speak from experience as a patient at MetropolitanMDs. Being in the field, I have a lot of options and I wouldn’t go anywhere else. I refer all my patients for his services.

What Causes the Turbinates to Swell?

Turbinate hypertrophy can develop in response to various environmental factors and infections. The mucous membranes covering the turbinates contain numerous blood vessels and they shrink or swell easily in response to various factors. The turbinates can swell due to allergies, chemical or physical irritants, temperature changes, or acute sinus infections. This creates congestion as the airflow through the nose becomes blocked. These are usually temporary conditions, and the turbinates return to normal size and the person’s congestion clears.

Persistent inflammation, allergic reactions, and continuing exposure to various environmental irritants may lead to chronic swelling of the turbinates. This usually occurs in the inferior turbinates and is called turbinate hypertrophy. This makes it difficult for the person to breathe through his or her nose. Turbinate hypertrophy is associated with chronic sinus infections and can stem from an untreated deviated septum.

Removal of the factors causing irritation in the mucous membranes or treating the underlying allergies with nasal steroid sprays can reduce the swelling and improve breathing. But when this swelling is chronic, surgery may be required to reduce the size of the inferior turbinates.

What Will My Recovery Be Like After Turbinate Reduction Surgery?

Your recovery is individual, based on how much excess tissue Dr. Rachel had to remove and whether your turbinate surgery was combined with another procedure such as a septoplasty or a sinus dilation. You will get specific details during your consultations, but here are some general recovery guidelines.

These procedures can be minimally invasive, so the recovery is not overly difficult. Your nose will feel stuffy for a few days to a week, but your breathing may improve quickly.

Is Turbinate Reduction Surgery Safe?

This is a safe procedure. Dr. Rachel uses the most minimally invasive methods for these turbinoplasties. There can be some post-operative bleeding and bloody discharge, but this can be stemmed by the use of nasal saline mist spray every 2-3 hours. We will provide you will all the instructions on how to care for your sinuses after this procedure. This is a very successful, safe procedure.

Will My Nose Look Different After Turbinate Reduction Surgery?

This procedure simply removes the excess tissue of the inferior turbinate. It does not change the external appearance of the patient’s nose when performed alone without additional nasal procedures.

Your Turbinate Hypertrophy will be performed in Dr. John D. Rachel's surgery center located in North Shore.


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