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Blocked Nose

A blocked nose or runny nose is often uncomfortable and difficult to tolerate. While very common in the UK this can often go untreated and cause unpleasant side effects when patients have to breath through their mouths – side effects can include excessive dryness in the mouth, which can damage the gums, and sometimes cause drooling. Sense of smell and taste can also be affected.

About blocked nose

Snoring is a common side effect from suffers of blocked nose as the open mouth causes the jaw and tongue to move thus obstructing the space behind the tongue.

The ENT Unit at the Hospital of St John & St Elizabeth provides expert care from our experienced Consultants including effective testing and treatment for blocked nose.

Causes of blocked nose

Blocked nose is a common condition in the UK and can effect all ages. There are many causes of this which commonly include allergy, a deviated nasal septum and chronic rhino-sinusitis.

If caused by an allergy, treatment will often begin with application of sprays. Sprays may help when the main symptom is a runny nose.  If unsuccessful the patient can be offered tablets or other medications.

Nasal septum trauma is another common cause of blocked nose and may have taken place without the patients knowledge. For example, during birth. Symptoms of nose blockage due to this tend to appear as we get older, even though the damage may have been caused at an earlier age.

Sinus disease can lead to serious infections and can be caused by obstruction of the normal sinus outflow tract from the para nasal air sinuses into the nose. This outflow tract clears mucous produced by the sinuses, through tiny holes (ostia) into the nose cavity, where they are cleared by passage backwards into the throat, and swallowing. Over a litre a day of mucous is produced by the nose and sinuses. Over-production causes symptoms of postnasal drip and chronic cough. Nose polyps can be a side effect of this, and they cause complete nose blockage with loss of sense of smell. Acute sinusitis occurs when the ostia are blocked (e.g. after a cold), fluid then builds up in the sinuses, which subsequently becomes infected. This type of infection can be very serious, sometimes life-threatening.

Surgical treatment of blocked nose – septoplasty

Septoplasty is a common procedure where a bent nasal septum is corrected. Patients can be treated in a day under a short general anaesthetia. Successful unblocking occurs in most patients after one attempt, although a small percentage (around 1:40 patients) need a second procedure.

Return to work from a septoplasty is usually around 48 – 72 hours post treatment. Painkillers are not usually required post-operatively. There are no black eyes or cuts on the outside, as it’s all done internally. Patients hate having packs removed from the nose after surgery. We do away with this by using laser techniques on the turbinates (which would otherwise be prone to bleeding) and dissolving packs are inserted which do not need to be removed (they dissolve over 48 hours). It’s like having a cold afterwards, as the nose swells up inside for about 1 week post-op. This is alleviated by using sprays, and salt water douches (Sterimar).

Laser reduction of the inferior turbinates

The inferior turbinates are bony structures covered by nasal lining, which protrude into the nose and can be a cause of nose blockage. Inferior Turbinate reduction with the carbon dioxide laser is a popular procedure, as it can be safely and quickly performed under local anaesthetic. This procedure vapourises away the nose lining over the turbinate. This lining re-grows, and can cause further blockage 18-24 months post op – when it can be safely repeated, if required.

The other technique for reduction of the inferior turbinate is called Turbinoplasty. This is performed under general anaesthetic, and uses the Holmium-YAG or CO2 laser to remove part of the inferior turbinate bone which has a much more permanent effect. Packs are generally not needed with either procedure, and patients can return to work the same day if it’s the local anaesthetic technique, or after 48 hours if it’s the general anaesthetic.

The pre-treatment diagnosis also often involves a CT scan of the sinuses, and full endoscopic examination of the nose. The procedure works by altering the function of nose breathing receptors, and reducing the size of the turbinates, thus increasing the size of the breathing channel and reducing the ability to sense blockage.

Contact us

Our experts at London ENT Unit have many years of experience in dealing with conditions of the nose and are able to perform advanced procedures to ensure you relief from any pain or discomfort that you may be experiencing. For any questions or to book an appointment we recommending contact our ENT team by calling 020 7078 3841 or emailing us at londonent@hje.org.uk.

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ENT Clinic

The ear, nose and throat unit (ENT) can provide same-day appointments with our specialist ENT Consultants who have a wealth of experience in treating various ENT conditions.

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Patient information

Our Hospital is renowned for providing exemplary levels of care across more than 90 services. From orthopaedics, to urology, our private GP practice and Urgent Care Clinic, our services are led by some of London’s leading Consultants. For more information, and to find a service suitable for your care, find out more about the services that we offer.

Make an enquiry

If you have any questions relating to treatment options or pricing information, get in touch with us by filling out one of our contact boxes or giving us a call on 020 7078 3841.

Our Appointments Team have a dedicated and caring approach to finding you the earliest appointment possible with the best specialist.

If you are self-paying you don’t need a referral from your GP for a consultation. You can simply refer yourself* and book an appointment.

If you have health insurance (e.g. Bupa, Axa Health, Aviva), you will need to contact your insurer to get authorisation before any treatment, and in most cases you will also require a referral letter from your GP.

If you are not registered with a GP, we have an in-house private GP practice you can use. Alternatively, we can suggest the most appropriate course of action for you to take, given your location and individual circumstances.

*Please note – for investigations such as X-rays and MRIs, a referral will be required. However, we may be able to arrange this for you through our on-site private GP.

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