Snoring & Nasal Congestion

Luke Rudmik, MD

What are common causes of nasal congestion?
Nasal congestion has a variety of causes, and is usually attributed to either a structural anatomic blockage or swelling of the nasal tissue. Both problems can narrow the nasal cavity and give a sensation of “Nasal Congestion”. The following is a list of potential causes of nasal congestion:
What are some treatment options for nasal congestion?
Treatment of nasal congestion typically begins with medical therapy along with conservative treatments such as avoiding known allergens and using nasal saline irrigations. Common medications used to treat the various causes of nasal congestion include:
  • Topical nasal steroid spray
  • Topical nasal antihistamine spray
  • Oral antibiotic
  • Oral steroid
  • Oral antihistamine
The presence of a physical blockage does not necessarily mean that surgery is required. However, if the above treatments have been attempted and the symptoms persist, then surgery can be very helpful for the patient who suffers with chronic nasal congestion. Surgical treatments for nasal congestion can be performed in the office or in the operating room. Office treatments for nasal obstruction include radiofrequency turbinate ablation (Somnoplasty, Coblation) and laser turbinate surgery. Operating room treatments include: 
How can nasal congestion cause snoring?
During sleep, the body naturally tries to breathe through the nose. When nasal congestion forces mouth breathing during sleep, greater negative pressure develops behind the uvula and soft palate. This negative pressure increases the vibration of these "noise-makers" during sleep, helping to create the sound we know as “snoring”. 
What are other causes of snoring?
Although improved nasal airflow can be very helpful in the treatment of snoring, the diagnosis and treatment of other contributing factors is often necessary to increase the probability for cure. Other major risk factors for snoring include: 
  • Obesity
  • Large tonsils
  • Long uvula and palate
  • Large tongue with respect to the jaw size. 
In some cases, snoring is a sign of a medical condition called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Obstructive sleep apnea exists when significant breath holding or shallow breathing episodes occur during sleep. A sleep study is generally required to differentiate between snoring and OSA. Similar treatments are beneficial for both snoring and OSA. If you suffer from nasal congestion, snoring, or suspect sleep apnea contact your local otorhinolarynology specialist. 

Revised 7/2011
©American Rhinologic Society