There can be many causes of a stuffy nose or nasal congestion. Nasal congestion is usually a symptom of another underlying health condition. A stuffy nose refers to the obstruction of the airflow in and out of the nose. It is not the same as a runny nose, which refers to a discharge coming from the nose. Nasal congestion is usually caused due to inflammation of the tissues that line your nasal passage and your sinuses. Rarely, some anatomical obstruction may also cause a stuffy nose. One of the most common reasons behind a stuffy nose is the common cold or allergies. Read on to find out the different causes of a stuffy nose.
24 Different Causes of Stuffy Nose (Nasal Congestion)
Nasal congestion is another term used to refer to a stuffy nose. This is marked by your nose becoming inflamed and stuffed up.(1) Many types of minor health conditions are the most common causes of a stuffy nose. For example, sinus infections, the flu, and a cold are all known to cause stuffy noses. If your nasal congestion is being caused by a minor illness, then it tends to improve within a week.
However, if stuffy nose lasts for more than a week, it may be a symptom of a more serious underlying health condition. Some of the causes behind long-term nasal congestion include:
- Hay fever
- Allergies are known to cause stuffy nose
- Environmental irritants
- Chemical exposures
- Non-cancerous growths such as nasal polyps or benign tumors inside the nasal passages an also lead to stuff nose.
- A Deviated Septum – This is a condition that occurs when the thin wall known as nasal septum present between the nasal passages gets displaced to one side. This makes one nasal passage smaller. If the deviated septum is severe, then it can cause blockage of one nostril and reduce the airflow, making it difficult to breathe.(2)
- A long-lasting sinus infection, known as chronic sinusitis(3)
- Churg-Strauss syndrome – a condition marked by inflammation of the blood vessels. This can constrict the blood flow to your organs and tissues.(4)
- Overuse of decongestant nasal sprays.(5)
- Dry air
- Enlarged Adenoids – The adenoids are lymph tissue that is located in the upper airway between the nose and back of the throat. Enlarged adenoids mean this tissue is swollen. Children with enlarged adenoids have been found to breathe through their mouth because their nose is blocked.(6)
- Certain food items, especially spicy foods
- Presence of a foreign body in the nose can cause stuffy nose
- Granulomatosis with Polyangiitis (formerly known as Wegener’s Granulomatosis) – This is a rare disorder that causes inflammation of the blood vessels present in your sinuses, nose, throat, lungs, and kidneys. One of the first signs of this disorder is usually nasal congestion.(7)
- Hormonal Changes – A high level of estrogen is also known to cause nasal inflammation, swelling, and mucus production. Many pregnant women often find themselves having a stuffy nose due to the increased levels of estrogen during pregnancy. (8)
- Certain medications that are used to treat erectile dysfunction, high blood pressure, seizures, depression, and other conditions.
- Nasal Polyps – These are soft and painless benign growths that occur on the lining of the nasal passage or your sinuses. They appear to be hanging down like grapes or teardrops. Polyps are usually caused due to chronic inflammation. They are also associated with asthma, allergies, drug sensitivity, recurring infections, or immune disorders.(9, 10)
- Non-allergic rhinitis – This condition involves chronic sneezing or having a consistent congested and drippy nose with no visible cause. The symptoms of non-allergic rhinitis are also very similar to those of hay fever, but there is usually no evidence present to indicate an allergic reaction. A stuffy nose is a common symptom of non-allergic rhinitis.
- Thyroid Disorders
- Tobacco Smoke
- Sleep Apnea
- Occupational Asthma
- Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) – The Respiratory Syncytial Virus leads to infections in the respiratory tract and lungs. It is a prevalent infection, and most children catch the disease by the time they turn two years old. One of the common symptoms of this infection is a stuffy nose and dry cough.(11)
As mentioned above, some women may also experience a stuffy nose during pregnancy, especially towards the end of the first trimester. This is usually because of increased blood supply and hormonal changes that take place during pregnancy. These changes sometimes affect the nasal membranes, causing them to become dry, inflamed, or bleed.