Turbinates are curled, spongy bones inside the nasal passages that are covered in mucus.
They can be found on either side of the nasal cavity and the nasal septum. These structures appear in layers from the bottom of the nose to the nasal cavity roof.
- They are known as the superior, middle, and inferior turbinates.
- The largest and most important turbinate in terms of function is the inferior turbinate.
Nasal turbinates govern the nasal cavity airflow. In fact, the word “turbinate” has as its origin the word “turbulence” or irregular airflow. Cells surrounding turbinates help to hydrate them, as well as heat and filter inhaled air. Proper humidity is helpful in preventing possible damage to delicate structures found within the nasal cavity.
What is Turbinate Hypertrophy?
The medical condition known as turbinate hypertrophy can develop due to certain environmental factors and infection. The turbinates are covered with mucosal membranes that supply blood and can swell or shrink due to numerous factors. The turbinates can be affected by physical irritants, chemicals, allergies, sinus infections, or temperature changes.
Causes of Turbinate Hypertrophy
Enlarged turbinates is a reversible condition in most cases. However, allergic reactions, chronic inflammation, and exposure to irritants can cause ongoing turbinate swelling or turbinate hypertrophy. This condition causes it to become more difficult to breathe through the nose. A sufferer of turbinate hypertrophy tends to have difficulty breathing at night and loud snoring.
How it’s Treated
The swelling of turbinates can be reduced by removing irritating factors or by treating allergies that exacerbate the condition. Obstructed breathing due to turbinate hypertrophy can be effectively reduced through the use of nasal steroid sprays that minimize the inflammation.
In some cases, surgery is the best choice, particularly if the bony structure of the turbinates becomes enlarged. Turbinate reduction surgery has as its goal the reduction of the size of the turbinates so that the nasal airways are opened. This surgery is sometimes performed together with a rhinoplasty.
Various surgical methods can be employed in the reduction of turbinate size. Some techniques involve the excision of a portion of the turbinates’ bony structure. Other methods assist in shrinking the turbinates through the reduction of soft tissue. Radio-frequency reduction is another popular technique that involves directing thermal energy to heat the turbinates. This leads to a scarring of tissue that reduces turbinate size.
Turbinoplasty is a type of surgical procedure involving the forming of an incision in the turbinate lining and the removal of a portion of the bony structure. A special device known as a microdebrider is used in this instance. The microdebrider can dramatically shorten the time needed for surgery.
If a turbinate is extremely large or unresponsive to intervention with medication, surgery may be advised. You may also require a turbinate reduction if your medications are causing unmanageable side effects.