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What Causes Turbinates to Swell & How Long Does It Take To Recover From Turbinate Reduction?

The nose is equipped with in-built air filters which are mainly fleshy structures present in the form of three pairs to help in filtering, moistening, and warming up the inhaled air. These fleshy pairs present inside the nose are known as turbinates.

Presence of healthy turbinates is very important for the good health of every person. However, if turbinates swell up, or gets displaced, or become enlarged then it might lead to nasal pathway obstruction as well as many other troubles like breathing, pain, and blockage etc.

Although, some sort of allergies or infections usually triggers enlargement of these turbinates1, However, in a few cases, weather or temperature changes or medications, pregnancy or thyroid hormone changes, fatigue, and even stress can also cause chronic irritation of turbinates making them swell up. Troubled turbinates further cause obstruction and nasal congestion which ultimately increases pressure sensation inside the nose and all over the face.

There are no fixed symptoms of turbinate swelling but mostly its common symptoms include headaches, facial pain, tiredness, and fatigue along with irregular or poor sleeping patterns. Snoring or sleeping issues are also caused by swelling of turbinates and blockage of the nasal path. The enlargement of turbinates even affects the mouth by making it dry and even causing dryness in the throat. Turbinate swelling can easily block up the sinus drainage which can trigger all sinus symptoms and the condition might even become so severe in few cases that it might require sinus surgery along with a turbinate reduction to relieve all the unwanted symptoms.

What Causes Turbinates to Swell?

What Causes Turbinates to Swell?

Mostly issues with turbinates vary from one person to another. However, mild breathing issues resolve on its own with time while on the medical treatment. There are some reversible causes or turbinates which reappear again and again with time and sometimes medical treatment helps in resolving it and sometimes it might not. Some of the causes of turbinate enlargement which is not easy to reverse without surgery include:

  • Chronic infections
  • Severe allergies
  • Anatomical structural issues of the nose
  • Some effects of the medications
  • People with septoplasty are usually recommended for turbinate reduction to rectify deviated septum. Since the deviation of septum causes a compression pressure over the turbinates and even cause breathing troubles.
  • Crucial weather alteration effects etc.

Why Turbinate Reduction is Necessary Post Swelling of Turbinates?

The main cause of turbinate swelling is allergy or infection but medications can help to eliminate and to cure such infections or allergies. However, there are certain cases in which the real cause is sometimes not known and hence the turbinates need to be treated by reduction. Even in other cases as well when the turbinates swell so much that it imposes an obstruction than the only resolution left is a turbinate reduction.

Although, it is always recommended that medical treatment for managing turbinates must be tried first before reaching out for any surgical procedure. Medical treatment options like taking antihistamines, corticosteroids, and decongestants etc. are suggested while treating stuffy nose and preventing rhinitis. But such medical treatments usually provide a temporary relief from the symptoms instead of causing side effects like drowsiness, burning sensation, and reoccurrence of nasal congestion after stopping the therapy.

Surgical measures for turbinate reduction is recommended by the doctors only if turbinates do not respond towards the medications or if long term medication therapy causes side effects. Few other surgical options including steroid injections and laser turbinate reduction etc. are also available besides the turbinate reduction surgery procedure. In severe cases of turbinate reduction, submucous section or partial resection is required and in rare cases, septum surgery is also accompanied in order to improve the breathing capability of the patient.

Turbinate reduction helps in mainly opening up the blocked airway nasal passage and hence relieves all related symptoms.

How Long Does It Take to Recover From Turbinate Reduction?

Recovery time or a healing period after any particular surgery is different for every individual. Since it is dependent upon how a person’s body reacts towards medicines and adopts changes along with precautions. Similarly recovery period for turbinate reduction also varies specifically from person to person and for less invasive reduction the healing is quick with early recovery. It might take nearly 3 to 4 weeks for the new scar tissue to heal inside the nose, whereas in a detailed invasive reduction surgery of turbinate longer recovery period of unto 6 months can be noticed in a few people. Initially a few weeks after the invasive turbinate reduction surgery, nostrils are properly packed up with gauze to keep tissues intact and promote healing at once place. So the overall recovery period might vary significantly between 3 to 6 months in invasive surgery.

A doctor prescribes a few medications to help with pain. So, the recommended pain medications are to be taken at the same dosage until it is suggested to reduce. Since post-surgery pain management is mandatory to keep the person relaxed which further promotes early healing, several precautions are also suggested to prevent excessive bleeding and avoid swelling by avoiding extensive strenuous exercise and even avoiding nose blow out for a few weeks post-surgery. Keeping the head little elevated during sleep and other activities like changing clothes or fastening them up carefully are certain things to be followed to avoid any irritation in the nose and keeping it safe. Similarly, several other small things need to be taken care of in order to avoid any complication post turbinate reduction and this even avoids longer recovery periods.


The swelled up turbinates or enlarged turbinates require immediate treatment, and initially medications are the first line of treatment for the same. If that does not work to produce effective results than only turbinate reduction surgery is recommended by the doctor. Selecting the type of turbinate reduction is something which must be done by the doctor as per the need of the patient. Further, measures must be taken to follow all instructions to minimize the recovery period and promote healing without leading into any complication just because of carelessness.


  1. Clark DW, Del Signore AG, Raithatha R, Senior BA. Nasal airway obstruction: prevalence and anatomic contributors. Ear Nose Throat J. 2018 Jun. 97 (6):173-6.
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 17, 2019

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