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.
Part of the nose includes the septum. It is a vertical structure that divides the two nasal passages in the nose. When the septum becomes crooked or bent, it is called a deviated septum. Deviated septums can block the flow of air through the nose. In serious cases, a patient may need a surgical procedure to straighten out the septum and open the nasal airways.
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.
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.