Snoring. Snuffling. If you can’t breathe normally or get a good night’s sleep, you could have a deviated septum, but you could also be suffering from nasal valve collapse. This is a common, but less well-known, cause of breathing problems. Nasal valve collapse, or vestibular stenosis, can affect just one side of the nose, or both sides. It can be corrected surgically, to restore normal breathing.
Our nostrils lead to passages inside our nose, called valves because they control the amount of air we take in. The pressure caused by incoming air causes the valves to collapse slightly, then reopen as we exhale. You can see this for yourself if you look in the mirror and then inhale sharply. You’ll see the sides of your nose “cave in” a bit.
If a nasal valve has a structural defect or becomes damaged, it collapses or becomes occluded. When that happens, the valve cannot function properly, and breathing becomes difficult.
What causes nasal valve collapse?
Some people are born with a congenital malformation within their nose that results in a collapsed valve. Injuries are a common cause of nasal valve collapse. Injuries can also cause a deviated septum, in which the central columella (the cartilage that forms the center of the nose) is pushed to one side. This also narrows the airway and causes breathing difficulties. Aging can cause a valve to collapse. And sometimes nose reduction surgery can weaken the internal structure, resulting in valve collapse.
More than an annoyance
Anyone who has trouble breathing knows how irritating it can be. But nasal valve collapse is not the same as having a “stuffy nose” caused by allergies or a cold. In those cases, normal breathing returns when you recover from the cold or treat your allergy. Nasal valve collapse will not improve or go away on its own. It affects your entire lifestyle and your quality of life.
In fact, over time the persistent inability to breathe normally can trigger secondary health problems.
Correctly diagnosing the cause of the problem is a critical first step in determining exactly what type of rhinoplasty procedure or series of procedures is needed to properly reconstruct the nasal passage(s).
It takes a highly experienced surgeon
Every patient’s facial structure is somewhat different, and there can be any number of reasons for obstructed breathing. Only a well-trained, experienced rhinoplasty surgeon can tell whether your problems are caused by nasal valve collapse or another issue, and then devise a personally-tailored corrective surgical plan.
So if you are considering nasal airway surgery, one of the most important questions you can ask a prospect surgeon is: how much experience do you have with this specific procedure?
For example. Dr. Jeffrey Raval is double board certified, by American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstruction Surgery and the American Board of Otolaryngology (Head and Neck Surgery). Dr. Raval specializes in rhinoplasty, both reconstructive and cosmetic procedures. It is important to note that, if you are considering an aesthetic change to your nose, that surgery and nasal valve repair can be accomplished at the same time.
The good news is that you don’t have to suffer. And it is in your best health interests to seek help now if you have moderate to severe breathing problems. The sooner you schedule a consultation with Dr. Raval, the sooner you’ll know exactly what’s causing your problem. And the sooner you’ll be on your way to significantly improved breathing and sleeping. Those changes will improve the rest of your life.