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Nose and sinus conditions

A variety of conditions can affect your nose and sinuses. Most do not cause major problems, but when it's more than just a sniffle or a cold it may impact on your quality of life. Nose conditions are one of the major reasons for time off work, so if you're experiencing any ongoing symptoms it's worth speaking to an ear, nose and throat specialist.

We can help if you need treatment for hay fever or painful sinuses, if you've injured your nose, or need a surgical treatment. Here are some of the most common nose and sinus conditions. Please click the links to read about each one.

 

Blocked nose: sinusitis, rhinitis, allergies and nasal polyps  The sinuses are the four small air-filled spaces in your forehead and cheeks. Most of the time our sinuses are clear and healthy, but, occasionally, they may become blocked or 'stuffy'. A blocked or stuffy nose is not a condition, but usually a symptom of something else. Here are some of the most common causes of a blocked nose and how they may be treated.

 

Sinusitis  Sinusitis is an infection of the sinuses. There are two kinds: acute and chronic.

Acute sinusitis comes on quickly, often after a cold or flu, and lasts a few days. It's often accompanied by a runny nose and pain around the sinus area, and, occasionally, toothache. Acute sinusitis usually doesn't need treatment, but antibiotics can sometimes help.

Chronic sinusitis lasts several weeks or more and sometimes follows acute sinusitis. Symptoms may include a runny nose, pain around the sinus area, toothache and some loss of your sense of smell. The causes include a recurring infection, a build-up of mucus, inflammation, allergies, or the passages that allow drainage from your sinuses may be blocked.

Treatment for chronic sinusitis will depend upon your symptoms and the cause. If you have an infection antibiotics may help. In some cases a minor surgery may be needed to unblock the passages. Our ear, nose and throat specialists will discuss your symptoms with you and may run some tests, such as a blood test to check for an infection, allergy testing or an x-ray to see if there is a blockage. They'll then suggest the best treatment options for you.
 

Rhinitis, allergies and hay fever  Rhinitis is inflammation of the nose. Symptoms include sneezing and a blocked or runny nose. You may also have itchy and watery eyes, an itchy throat, pain and loss of your sense of smell. There are two types of rhinitis: allergic and non-allergic.

Allergic rhinitis is the most common and can be caused by a variety of things, including allergies to dust or pets. Or it may be caused by hay fever - an allergy to pollen. Symptoms may come and go depending upon the season. Diagnosing allergic rhinitis is straightforward and can be usually done by discussing your symptoms with one of our ear, nose and throat specialists who will also examine the inside of your nose. They may also suggest an allergy test, such as a skin prick test, which will help identify the exact cause of your allergy.

A skin prick test is painless and safe, and only takes around 20 minutes. Your skin is pricked with a tiny amount of the suspected allergen (for example, pollen or dust mites). If the area where your skin is pricked becomes itchy and red this means you have a reaction to that particular allergen.

Treatment for allergic rhinitis depends on the cause of your symptoms and their frequency. You may need over the counter antihistamines or a decongestant. In some cases a nasal inhaler containing a corticosteroid may help. We'll discuss the options with you and suggest the best approach.

Non-allergic rhinitis has many causes, including viral infections, eating hot or spicy food, alcohol, smoke or chemicals and hormone imbalances.

Treatment will depend on its type and cause. Non-allergic rhinitis may improve by taking over the counter decongestants or by regularly rinsing your nasal passages with saline (salt water). In some cases, our ear, nose and throat specialist may prescribe a nasal inhaler to help relieve your symptoms.

 

Nosebleeds  Although it may be frightening to have a nosebleed they are common and most can be treated easily at home. They're most common amongst children, and they usually grow out of them. Causes includepicking your nose, colds, allergy and hay fever. Or sometimes an injury to the nose.

How to treat a nosebleed at home

  • Sit with your head bent forward.
  • Pinch the tip of your nose to close off the nostrils and breathe through your mouth for five to ten minutes.
  • A cold flannel or an ice pack on your nose can help. Once it stops, you should avoid picking or blowing your nose, as this may cause it to bleed again.

You should get medical help if the bleeding doesn't stop after 20-30 minutes.

Nosebleeds are not usually serious, but if you're having them regularly you should see a specialist. The treatment for recurrent nosebleeds will depend on the cause. Our ear, nose and throat specialists will discuss your symptoms and frequency of your nosebleeds to understand the cause and suggest the right treatment for you or your child.

 

Nose surgery (rhinoplasty)  Rhinoplasty, or 'nose jobs' as they're commonly known, are usually thought of as a cosmetic procedure, but there are many reasons why you may need surgery on your nose. Including:

  • birth defects affecting your nose and/or sinuses
  • damage or injuries
  • untreated fractures (breaks)
  • nasal polyps (a growth inside the nose or sinuses)
  • foreign objects inside the nose or sinuses
  • chronic sinus problems that don't respond to non-surgical treatments such as antibiotics

 

In addition to medical reasons for surgery, ear, nose and throat surgeons can also carry out surgery to improve the appearance of your nose, such as making it straight or smaller.

Whatever your need for surgery our specialists will discuss everything with you in detail and answer any questions you may have in order to reassure you at every step of your treatment.

 

Nasal polyps  Nasal polyps are abnormal tissue growths inside the nasal passages and sinuses. They vary in size, but are usually shaped like a teardrop, and often look like a small cluster of grapes. Nasal polyps are not cancerous, so you should not be worried. But, they can cause symptoms or other conditions, including a runny or blocked nose, a build up of mucus that may drip down your throat (known as post-nasal drip), a reduced sense of smell, snoring and, in some cases, sinusitis.

The causes of nasal polyps are not clear, but may include asthma and rhinitis. They're also linked to sinusitis, as they may cause an infection if they grow inside or near the sinuses. Our ear, nose and throat specialists will talk to you about your symptoms and examine your nostrils to see if you have nasal polyps. They may shine a light up your nose to do this. If the nasal polyps can't be seen using a light then you may need a more detailed examination to allow your specialist to take a closer look.

In many cases, nasal polyps can be treated using corticosteroids, which will shrink them. For larger nasal polyps surgery may be needed. Our ear, nose and throat specialists will discuss any tests and surgery with you in detail in order to reassure you and offer you the best treatment.