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Breathing Problems

While many assume the nose is just good for smelling, it actually serves three primary functions: to warm, humidify and filter air as it passes into the body. For those with breathing problems, one or multiple of these functions may be impacted. Breathing problems can be temporary or chronic, mild or severe, however, they typically become more common with age. To assess breathing problems, patients take a physical examination and breathing tests, such as lung function tests for diagnosing asthma or spirometry, to determine how much and how fast you can blow air out of your lungs. X-rays and CT scans may also be taken to get a visual picture of your breathing apparatus. The most common breathing problems are discussed below:


When an allergen--like pollen, environmental or chemical pollutant--enters the body, the immune system kicks in to fight the effects. In most cases, the immune systems produces histamine, which causes the symptoms typically associated with allergies and hay fever: headaches, sneezing, watery or itchy eyes, nasal congestion and scratchy throat. Besides allergens, smoking can also contribute to nasal congestion. To treat allergies, most people need to reduce exposure to the allergen and take medication, often antihistamines and nasal decongestants. For more intense cases, allergy shots may be needed to build up the body's immune response to the allergen over time.

Nasal Anatomy

The nose is a complex structure with multiple possible barriers to airflow. These barriers range from a deviated nasal septum (the vertical structure that separate the two nasal passages) to narrow nasal valves (the relationship of the cartilaginous nasal sidewall to the internal structures of the nose). Medical treatment can often be helpful in nasal breathing. When medical treatment is inadequate several surgical options are available and offered by our otolaryngologists.

Environmental Factors

The most popular environmental induced allergies include molds, dust and dry air. These environmental factors can be assessed by your doctor through physical examination and skin tests. If your allergic response is severe, your doctor may recommend allergy shots to build up an immunity to the allergens and alleviate your symptoms.

Lung Diseases

Your lungs do a lot of work to help you breathe, however, certain lung diseases can also cause breathing problems, including asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (such as emphysema or chronic bronchitis).


If you’ve been feeling any inflammation behind your upper cheeks on both sides of the nose or between the eyes and above the eyes, you may have sinusitis. Sinusitis is characterized by congestion and a feeling of pressure, often causing watery eyes, commonly in response to moving up and down. Many over-the-counter medications will treat mild sinusitis. Though, for more serious cases, prescription medications may be required to alleviate the pain and open up the nasal passages. Occasionally, surgery is required to remove chronically inflamed sinus tissue.

For treatments concerning persistent breathing problems, please contact our office and schedule an appointment with one of our otolaryngologists.