Turbinates are small structures inside the nose that cleanse and humidify air that passes through the nostrils into the lungs. They are made by a bony structure surrounded by vascular tissue and a mucous membrane outside, and can become swollen and inflamed by allergies, irritation or infection, causing nasal obstruction and producing an excessive amount of mucous which leads to congestion.

Some common and reversible causes of turbinate enlargement include:

  • Allergies
  • Infections
  • Weather changes
  • Stress
  • Medications
  • Hormonal changes

There are some causes of turbinate enlargement or displacement that can’t easily be reversed and may require turbinate reduction. These include:

  • Chronic infections
  • Severe allergies
  • Anatomic issues with the nose

Turbinate reduction is also commonly recommended for those who undergo septoplasty, which is surgery to correct a deviated septum.  A deviated septum is a shift of the bone and cartilage between the nose’s two nostrils. It can cause compression of the turbinates and trouble breathing.  A turbinate reduction can help further open up the airways of a person who’s had a septoplasty.  The goal of turbinate reduction surgery is to shrink the size of the turbinates without removing too much tissue.  A lack of turbinate tissue may cause the nasal cavity to become very dry and crusty.