Nasal congestion is one of the most common ailments that people seek medical attention for. There are four common categories of causes for a blocked nose: infection, structural causes, allergies and non-allergic vasomotor rhinitis. It is not uncommon to have more than one factor involved.
How does an infection cause blocked nose?
The flu virus causes the release of several chemicals including histamine, which dramatically increases blood flow in the nasal cavity. This causes swelling of the nasal tissues and stimulates the nasal membranes to produce excessive amounts of mucus. In such cases, decongestants and antihistamines may be prescribed.
What are the structural causes of blocked nose?
Deformities of the nasal septum (the thin cartilage and bone that divide the nose into its two sides) may cause nasal obstruction in some but not all patients. Surgery can correct the problem if the deviation is severe enough to warrant it. Learn about surgery for deviated nasal bones and nasal septum here.
Do I have an allergy?
Allergic rhinitis is an exaggerated inflammatory response in the nose to a foreign substance such as pollen or mould. In the allergic patient, the release of histamine and similar substances results in congestion, sneezing and excess production of watery nasal discharge. Antihistamines, decongestants and intranasal steroids may be prescribed.
What is vasomotor rhinitis?
Patients with vasomotor rhinitis have symptoms similar to allergic patients but with no obvious cause. Blood vessels in the nose expand, nasal membranes become engorged, and the nose becomes congested. Other than allergies and infections, there are other triggers of vasomotor rhinitis including psychological stress, an underactive thyroid and pregnancy.
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