The nasal turbinates - anatomy and conditions
The exterior of the nose begins at the spot between the eyes (known as the root), where the nose projects forward from the skull. Underneath, the nasal cartilage begins at the nasal bone, supporting the span from the bridge of the nose to the tip (the apex). The flared surfaces on each side of the nose that surround the nostril are called the alae. The nasal septum supports the flesh between the nostrils, and the indentation that runs from between the nostrils to the upper lip is called the philtrum. Inside, the outermost part of the two-sided nasal airway is called the nasal valve. Just upstream on each side are the nasal turbinates.
Stuffy nose - The sensation of stuffy nose, often described in medical terms as nasal obstruction, can have a variety of causes, from the temporary, such as congestion due to a cold or allergies, to more persistent obstruction caused by swelling of the turbinates, or by a malformation of the airway.
Hypertrophic turbinates - When they become enlarged, the turbinates, particularly the lowest, or inferior turbinate, can block nasal airflow.
Deviated septum - The septum is a narrow structure of cartilage and bone, lined with mucosal tissue like the turbinates, that forms the wall between the right and left nasal airways. The septum can be displaced to one side from birth, or because of injury. The result is that one nasal passage is narrower than the other, which causes obstruction and can lead to swollen turbinates due to the imbalance in air flow.
Allergic rhinitis and hay fever - Rhinitis is the medical term for inflammation and swelling of the nasal passages. One cause of rhinitis is allergic reaction to inhaled substances, for example, dust, pollen or pet dander. In some cases, an allergy to food can cause swollen airways.
Non-allergic (vasomotor) rhinitis - Vasomotor rhinitis is swelling of the airway that is not caused by allergy. It can be triggered by exposure to environmental irritants, dry air, medications, or even intense emotion.
Nasal valve collapse - The nasal valve is the section of the airway located just beyond the nostrils. If the fleshy tunnels that form the airway are narrow or overly flexible, they can collapse inward as you inhale. Sometimes visible from the outside, nasal valve collapse restricts the flow of air, causing the stuffy nose sensation.